‘My weight cost me my career and surgery was my only hope’
A fit and active child, Pearline Storer ate healthily, having three properly cooked meals a day at her family home in Birmingham. But by the age of 18 she was told she was overweight and almost missed out on her dream job because of it. This was the start of her yo-yo dieting and a fixation on weight which would eventually end in counselling and surgery.
Pearline had always been big for her age. At 18 she was 11 and a half stone and was told that weight could hinder her job prospects as a nurse. Pearline tried high-fibre diets and even resorted to liquid-only dieting in the hope of shedding the pounds.
Poor diet and weight gain
Her diet was also negatively affected by long working hours. Shift work meant either a big breakfast or a larger portion for dinner. Pearline often wouldn’t have time to eat a proper lunch and ended up grabbing convenience food whenever she could. She also didn’t have time for the physical activities she used to do in her youth.
After a decade in nursing, Pearline had gained three stone, despite regular dieting. Even on the day of her mother’s death, she went to her local slimming club. But the closeness of their relationship meant the longer-term impact of the bereavement was devastating. Also, her mother had been a dressmaker and had made Pearline’s clothes, so Pearline didn’t know her own dress-size, which was a real revelation.
She began to comfort eat and by the age of 30 her weight had rocketed to 18 stone. Moving back to her father’s house, Pearline had the support of her family around her. She wanted to regain control of her weight and took up ballroom dancing, which she absolutely loved.
In 1998 Pearline suffered a back injury during one of her routine home visits. The pain was so intense that she was referred to a physiotherapist and orthopaedic surgeon. Her condition meant that she had to take on limited responsibilities at work. Desperate to stay, she attended regular physiotherapy and osteopathy for a further two years until her contract was terminated in 2000 on the grounds of ill health.
As a result of her back injury, Pearline stopped attending dancing classes and was unable to do anything physical. Even walking up the stairs was a struggle. Her weight escalated to 23 stone and Pearline began to suffer from other health problems including respiratory issues which led to sleep apnoea, hypertension and regular chest infections.
Pregnancy, weight loss and weight gain
During her toughest times Pearline was able to depend upon her husband, who she married in 1998. Without his support and that of her family, she may have spiralled into depression. Desperate to have a healthy pregnancy, she shed a few stones. At 41 she became pregnant and resolved to cut out refined foods. This led to her losing 2 stone during pregnancy. But Pearline’s pregnancy wasn’t without trial. Due to hypertension she was high-risk for pre-eclampsia and suffered from Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, a condition which causes pelvic misalignment and subsequent pain. She also suffered from a heart condition towards the end of the pregnancy which meant she had to be induced.
After the birth of her daughter, Pearline was on crutches for a year due to pelvic and lower back pain. She even had regular hydrocortisone and lignocaine injections to relieve the symptoms. Unable to carry her baby and in much pain, Pearline suffered from severe post-natal depression.
Despite this Pearline was determined to have more children. Two years later she became pregnant again. During her final pregnancy, Pearline lost over one and a half stone. Due to her earlier experience, she was given pre and post-natal counselling. However, the birth was traumatic and due to respiratory problems, her second daughter remained on the neo-natal unit for 7 days before she was able to take her home.
After she stopped breastfeeding, Pearline’s weight gradually crept up, reaching 23 and a half stone after 5 years. Her GP prescribed slimming tablets but after a few months of diarrhoea and side-effects, Pearline was referred to a dietician who helped her to lose 2 stone, but her weight plateaued at 21 stone.
Why weight loss surgery?
Wanting to be a good role model for her children and worried they might become fixated on food, Pearline started considering weight loss surgery and visited a consultant to see if she could have a gastric band fitted.
Her GP recommended she see an endocrinologist, who told Pearline that due to her eating patterns and high-fat food intake, she would be more suited to gastric bypass surgery. Pearline was shocked as she had considered this a last resort option. She researched her options using The British Obesity Society Patient Association (BOSPA) website and the internet.
Weight loss surgery at Spire Manchester
She was granted NHS funding and decided to have weight loss surgery at Spire Manchester Hospital following recommendations from people at her local bariatric support group and internet research. Her decision to have the surgery at Spire was also governed by the fact that she didn’t want to have to wait.
In 2009 Pearline met with senior bariatric nurse, Kath Rothwell, at Spire Manchester Hospital. After an open discussion, Pearline was recommended to see a psychologist before having surgery, due to her eating problems. She then waited for her Primary Care Trust to make her an appointment which took several months.
Psychology and weight loss
The psychological counselling helped Pearline come to terms with why she over-ate, which slowly changed her relationship with food. The sessions also helped her understand how weight loss would affect her. She started Pilates, belly dancing and underwent relaxation classes to help with her post-operative recovery. Happy with her progress, she was referred back to Spire Manchester Hospital for surgery.
Gastric bypass surgery
Pearline underwent gastric bypass surgery on 5 October 2010. Her appointment had been set for early September but after she was involved in a car accident, the surgeon wasn’t happy to proceed until she underwent tests for a suspected heart problem. As the results were normal, her surgery was re-booked for the following month.
The operation was performed using keyhole surgery and was a complete success. Despite having a morphine drip, Pearline didn’t need it and took painkillers instead. She talked with other people who also had similar surgery, and after a two day stay, she was discharged.
Spire weight loss surgery
Pearline says: “The team at Spire Manchester Hospital were fantastic. I always thought that private hospitals were very commercial in their approach, but the fact that they deferred my operation to ensure that I was fit and well was really reassuring.
“I knew that I was in the best hands and I was physically and mentally prepared for the operation. The Spire team visited me to check my progress and I had a great support network around me, with the regular support group meetings, and friends and family bringing me specially prepared food and liquids.”
Within a few months of surgery Pearline has lost over three stone. Her back pain is manageable and she is now walking her daughters to school 3 times a week.
Following weight loss surgery
Pearline comments: “I feel fantastic. My back and pelvic problems aren’t that painful now and I have even taken to walking the 2 mile round-trip to drop off my daughters at school. I feel like I am now a better role model for my children so that they will grow up active and with a healthy relationship with food.
“I would think twice about eating fatty foods as I don’t want to stop the good progress that I have made. After all, surgery is only the beginning and I know that the next 12 months will be crucial in helping me to achieve a healthy weight again. The New Year will see me taking up more active sports like swimming and I have already resumed a course of belly dancing, so who knows what the future will hold!”.