23 January 2019
It should have been something that dreams were made of but, for Katie Beard, a family holiday in Florida became something of a nightmare.
At 21 stone Katie had spent her life unsuccessfully trying to lose weight, but when the she couldn’t fit into the aeroplane seatbelt things really did hit rock bottom.
“I was mortified,” said mum-of-two Katie, who lives in Cross Keys with husband Paul and children Morgan and Tryphena.
“I pulled my coat across my lap and just pretended that the belt was fastened. I just didn’t want to embarrass my family. It was then I knew that I really did need help.”
Things didn’t improve massively during the holiday as the baking hot Florida sun made walking around uncomfortable, while she constantly worried that she might not fit on some of the many adventure park rides her children were eager to experience.
On her return to Wales 42-year-old Kate arranged to meet Consultant Laparoscopic Bariatric Surgeon, Professor Jonathan Barry, at Spire Cardiff Hospital.
“I have battled against my weight for most of my life. There can’t be a single diet I haven’t tried and I have also tried hypnotherapy, cognitive behaviour therapy and even diet pills!
“Everything I did seemed to end in failure – food was controlling my life and crushing my self-esteem. I realised on that holiday that the only option left to me was surgery and I started researching the subject while still in Florida.”
After discussing the issue in depth with Professor Barry, Kate decided she would have a gastric sleeve procedure where up to 75% of the stomach is removed and then microscopically resealed leaving it looking like a sleeve or a banana.
Professor Barry explained: “The operation is a minimally invasive procedure with most patients staying in hospital for a couple of nights. It is technically a highly demanding procedure in which about three quarters of the stomach – including the area which contains ghrelin, known as the ‘hunger hormone’- is removed.
“By reducing the stomach capacity as well as the hormone that ‘craves’ food, we give the patient a great chance of successfully losing weight.
“However, that is far from being the end of the story. Even after a successful operation success depends on the determination of the patient to work hard on their diet. They have to drastically cut their portions as well as making healthy choices in what they choose to eat.
“Some people still look upon bariatric surgery as an ‘easy option’ but nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone I have ever treated in this way has already tried every diet under the sun and have still found themselves at a dangerous, even life-threatening, weight.
“If Katie hadn’t opted for surgery I really do think her health would have suffered very badly, putting her at risk of diabetes, heart attack and many other weight-related diseases.”
One year on and Katie has already lost 11 stone and made massive changes to her lifestyle.
“I walked to the top of Mount Snowden in less than two hours, went white water rafting and even went on a zip wire when, just months before, I would struggle to get to the top of the stairs,” she said.
“It hasn’t been easy, ‘Sleevie Wonder’ - as we refer to it – is just a tool to work with. I still had cravings for ‘naughty foods’ and ‘head hunger’ where I thought I was hungry even though I knew I couldn’t be. However, I was in the ‘last chance saloon’ and knew I had to make this work.
“It has been a rollercoaster ride but once the weight started going things began to get easier. Now I control what I eat. I see food very differently and actually make healthy choices because that is the sort of food I actually want to put in my body.
“I do yoga and Clubercise and Rika Shake and - best of all - I can really enjoy my work as a childminder – running and playing with the lovely children I look after rather than being constantly out of breath.”
Although Katie had tried to have the operation on the NHS she discovered she didn’t fit the strict criteria necessary to qualify for surgery.
It was then that her mum stepped in to help her finance the operation at Spire Cardiff.
“My wonderful mum didn’t only give me money to have the sleeve, she gave me the gift of living a healthy life – now my only regret is I didn’t have the operation ten years earlier.”