MILWAUKEE — Since the pandemic began, doctors at Ascension Wisconsin have seen more people prioritize health and ask for help with their weight.
One of those patients was Sue Godersky who has struggled with her weight for several years.
"I come from a family where obesity runs thick and deep, no pun," Godersky said.
Godersky hopes sharing her story inspires others to get the help that could change their life. In 2011, Godersky was at her heaviest at 271 pounds.
"I know my cholesterol was up. I just was unhealthy and how could I be a good nurse?" Godersky said.
Godersky's experience has been a rollercoaster marked with success and setbacks. At one point, she lost more than 100 pounds with diet and exercise, but cancer changed the course leading her to gain most of the weight back.
Then before COVID-19 vaccines were out, Godersky's brother caught the virus.
"He was in the hospital for 153 days on a ventilator for five weeks. His only risk factor is obesity no other underlying. Luckily, he lived and neurologically is intact, but will have many side effects," Godersky said.
Godersky said after that she reached out to the Ascension Wisconsin's Bariatrics Program where she connected with Dr. Christopher Weber whose team got to know her and her health history. They got her started on some medications and guidelines for a healthy diet.
It began with frequent visits upfront then moved to an appointment every three months. Godersky also does exercises that fit her needs.
"My cholesterol has improved. My cardiovascular risk is down," Godersky said.
According to Dr. Weber, their department has only gotten busier during the pandemic with every patient citing health reasons as the reason why they want to lose weight. Weber said the pandemic has put a spotlight on how a person's health conditions factor into the severity of something like COVID-19.
"During the pandemic, I've seen reasons for people to gain weight, right? You're not getting as much sleep, you're stressed, all that leads to weight gain. I don't know if that's in their minds as they come here or just that whole environment has gotten them to think more about their health," Dr. Weber said.
Dr. Weber does not expect the flow of patients to slow down soon and added that bariatrics is one of the specialties expected to grow over the next few years.
"Because it's related to so many other health problems, right. You see weight trends going up shortly behind that. Diabetes goes up shortly behind that. Fatty liver goes up. So, all these things are related," Dr. Weber said.
Godersky exceeded her goals. She plans to stick to the doctor's orders. She wants people to know there is no shame in asking for professional help as you would for any other medical condition.
"That was that motivation for me, just to regain my health and make sure that I’m around for a long time yet," Godersky said.
Most health insurance plans cover obesity screening and counseling. You should talk with your doctor about health concerns including weight, but you do not need a referral for Ascension Wisconsin's Bariatrics Program.