Laura's story: Gastric bypass surgery
Actress Laura Clayton has revealed how weight loss surgery helped transform her from an unhappy 'recluse' to having regular on-screen appearances on hit soap operas Coronation Street and Hollyoaks, TV programmes watched by millions across the country.
Childbirth, depression and trying numerous unsuccessful diets had led the pretty young mum to balloon to 24-stone.
Laura was so overweight that she was even a victim of taunting and bullying when she went to the shops, with people shouting insults like: "Who ate all the burgers?" and "Look at the size of her bum."
A lack of self-esteem and embarrassment was enough to keep her a virtual prisoner indoors - until she found a way out of her personal nightmare.
Laura, of Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, had never had any real issues with her weight as a teenager, despite training as a chef and enjoying food. She usually hovered around a size 16 – the UK’s national average. After she gave birth to son Jack, at 20 years of age, Laura suffered from post natal depression. The death of her best friend shortly afterwards, deepened her depression and distress. Laura also started showing signs of polycystic ovary syndrome and began to pile on weight. After three or four years and numerous 'yo-yo' diets with different slimming clubs, Laura just got bigger.
Her dream career was to be an actress and she studied for two years to attain a diploma, but even that achievement was not enough to trigger a revival of her spirits because she still lacked self-confidence. She tried for another baby without success and was shocked when her doctor told her that she was too overweight to conceive. At 24-stone and with a BMI of 50, Laura not only suffered with polycystic ovaries, reflux and breathlessness, but Laura's partner informed her that her snoring was getting worse and he was worried about the onset of sleep apnoea.
She says: "In my own eyes, I felt like a thin person in a fat body and I hid the tears behind a smile and so I would hate looking at myself in the mirror. I was ashamed of myself and did not like going out of the house."
On another visit to her doctor - Laura was also suffering with sores in the folds of her skin - the doctor suggested weight loss surgery.
Visiting Spire Regency Hospital
Laura was by then at the end of her tether and so her GP referred her to see experienced bariatric surgeon, Mr. Anselm Agwunobi, at the Spire Regency Hospital, Macclesfield, Cheshire.
"If anyone is looking to have weight loss surgery, I would recommend the Spire Regency Hospital, says Laura.
From day one, they were brilliant. Deborah Salisbury, the lead bariatric sister, was always so supportive, not just when I was attending clinics or having my surgery, but if I had any problem, however small, I would ring the dedicated phone number and either Deborah or one of the bariatric team would spend time talking to me and reassuring me. The aftercare and support for this type of surgery is so important.
Choosing to have weight loss surgery
"A lot of people think that weight loss surgery is an easy option and this makes me so cross.
"It was the hardest decision I ever had to make and it was a lot of hard work after the operation not just in terms of the new way of eating, but I hit the gym hard to give myself the best chance of having the body I wanted,” says a passionate Laura. She continues: "Having a gastric bypass is major surgery and overnight, you're whole life and relationship with food changes."
Laura had her surgery at the Spire Regency Hospital in Macclesfield and within months she had not only lost a significant amount of weight, but her polycystic ovary syndrome and reflux had disappeared. Her new found confidence began to change her life - including her relationship with her long term partner.
"We broke up." says Laura. "The dynamics of our relationship changed. I'm just not the person I was and my partner couldn't cope with the new, confident me. He didn’t want me to change.”
Becoming more confident
Five months after surgery and a good few stones lighter, a friend of Laura's - who was an 'extra' in the TV soap Hollyoaks - told Laura that her agent was looking for more people to be extras and asked Laura if she wanted to try it given her growing confidence.
From that day, Laura has never looked back and has appeared in Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, Shameless, and many more TV programmes.
"I trusted my surgeon with my life," says Laura. "Mr. Agwunobi was completely honest and told me all the risks on my very first visit.
"He helped me to feel so proud of myself. I remember going back to Spire Regency Hospital for my last follow-up appointment and I was sat in the consulting suite when Mr. Agwunobi opened his door and was looking all around with a puzzled look on his face.
"He asked one of the nurses if Laura Clayton had arrived yet and I piped up ‘I'm here!’ Mr. Agwunobi and the nurse's jaws dropped - they didn't recognise me sat right outside his door!"
Laura's life now
Laura is now a size 12-14, weighing 11.5 stone with a healthy BMI. She says she'll never be able to thank Mr. Agwunobi and Spire Regency enough, and feels so overwhelmed and near to tears with gratitude every time she comes back to Macclesfield to see him. "The day I had my operation, was the day my life started," she concludes.
Bariatric surgeon Anselm Agwunobi regards Laura's story as an inspiration to others.
He says: "Like many people struggling with their weight and its associated health consequences, Laura opted for weight loss surgery with us at Spire Regency as a last resort after trying for many years to lose her excess weight on her own.
"Although weight loss surgery is not an easy option, Laura has demonstrated that it can be a positive life changing experience if you have the right support behind you and the determination to make it work.
"Her determination to improve her overall health and quality of life with the help of weight loss surgery has been very inspiring."