Local woman has life-altering surgery

Published 1:20 am Sunday, February 8, 2009

When Jessica Crawford heard her 10-year-old say, “Mom, I can reach all the way around you… don’t ever get that big again,” she knew she would never regret deciding to have gastric bypass surgery. “I never realized it bothered him so much with me being heavy until after I lost the weight and he hugged me,” she said.

Wife of Walter Crawford, mother of two busy boys and a business owner, Crawford of Pearl River, La., could not “see” just how much weight she had gained. Shortly after the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on the region, with the added stress of being a business owner during the time, Crawford said she really began to pack on the pounds. “I didn’t realize how big I was till I saw pictures,” she said.

Slowly she began to limit her daily activities. She went to work because she had to for her family, however she stopped playing sports and doing some of the things she really enjoyed doing — not because she couldn’t do them, not because she didn’t want to do them but because she was afraid of what others would think, she said. She even monitored her trips out to eat with family and friends because she didn’t want to think about what others around her would be saying when she was eating among them as an overweight person, she said.

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For Crawford, the life-altering decision to go through with the evasive surgery known as gastric bypass, was easy. She admitted to a history of weight-related health issues in her family, such as diabetes and heart attacks, and before she put herself or her own family through the same things, she wanted to take action. “I didn’t wait till I got so out of hand before I did it,” she said.

Her mom had undergone the surgery in 1997 and a cousin did it in 1999. So when Crawford was diagnosed as morbidly obese, she said it was almost a no-brainer for her which direction she would head.

Crawford, under the medical care of Dr. Alfred Johnson, Chief of Surgery at Highland Community Hospital in Picayune, said there was no pressure from him to make this decision. She was given a couple of options with gastric bypass being only one of them.

Crawford also did not have any doubt about where she wanted to have the surgery performed — she easily choose Highland. “When I found out they did it here, that’s where I wanted to go because I had other surgeries there and I’ve always been treated great. Some people go clear across the country to have [bypass] surgery done but they can have it done right here.”

Her only one slight hesitation with having the procedure is that her insurance wouldn’t cover it, she had to pay cash. In the end, she likened it to purchasing a new car, and justified it by thinking what better thing to drive around in… a healthy body that you’re proud of, she said.

Crawford, at five feet, one inch in height, went into surgery on June 18, 2007, weighing in at 222 pounds. Today she weighs 138 pounds, having lost 89 pounds since her surgery.

“I feel great,” she said. Being in her early 30s, she’s really getting back into life, her life. She is involved in lots of activities that she may have shied away from before, such as teaching hip hop dance at a local dance studio and joining the new Pearl River Roller Derby Club. She also discovered she likes to run. “It’s just fun to run across the yard with my kids,” she said.

Now this mom can be a role model for her children. “I didn’t want my kids to have to go through this later,” Crawford said. She realized that as a family, they celebrated too much with food. Now she will encourage trips to the skating rink or bowling as a way to mark an important occasion.

Crawford said she easily followed all the rules leading up to and post the surgery, she is losing the weight and has not once made herself sick in the process. She does realize, however, that not everyone has experienced the surgery such great results. “I went through it with flying colors,” she said. “That doesn’t mean everyone can go through it with flying colors.”

She attributes her success to her readiness for the operation… and for her at least, the decision was easy.

“When you know you’re going to do something that drastic and that life changing, and it’s not even hard, that’s when you know you’re ready.”