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Weight-loss surgery propels woman’s journey to a better life

By Chris Langrill, News and Community
August 24, 2018

A few years ago, Sherri Ellis was at a crossroads, and she knew she needed to make some changes in her life. Drastic changes.

“I was dying, literally dying,” she said. “I was morbidly obese. I had uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes, and I was at the end of Stage 4 kidney failure. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure and sleep apnea.”

In July of 2015 she underwent a weight-loss surgery at St. Luke’s Boise.

The procedure, called a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, was performed by Dr. Jim Valentine. It essentially removed about 80 percent of Ellis’ stomach.

“The surgery is the high-risk and exciting part of it,” Dr. Valentine said. “But it’s the long-term commitment to the behavioral changes, such as eating right and committing to exercise … that really leads to success. Surgery without behavioral changes is not very effective.”

Ellis received that message loud and clear.

“That was the start of my journey,” Ellis said. “It took about a year and a half for me to lose 100 pounds and to gain my strength, so I could begin a physical activity routine.”

Sherri Ellis works out with her trainer, T.J. Wilson, as part of her new fitness routine following weight-loss surgery.

To date, Ellis has lost over 145 pounds and has quit taking more than a dozen medications.

Ellis still has a goal of losing about 15 more pounds, but she has a partner who is going to help her reach that goal: trainer T.J. Wilson.

“He introduced me to kickboxing, which I absolutely love. So don’t mess with me,” she told a crowd at the St. Luke’s Fit for the Road Reunion in June.

“It’s been a really cool experience,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of hard to run across clients like Sherri, who is so motivated to really succeed and be healthier. She shows up and works hard. She works harder than any other client I have.”

Dr. Valentine said that Ellis’ desire is what has turned her into a success story.

“Surgery is a tool, and we use that analogy because if you use it it works, and if you don’t use it it doesn’t do much good,” Dr. Valentine said. “With most surgical procedures you’re trying to get the person back to normal, or back to the state that they were in. With weight-loss surgery, we’re trying to make people better and change their lives for the rest of their lives.”

Ellis said her life certainly has been rejuvenated.

“I’m just giddy about this whole process,” Ellis said. “There’s just no comparison between my life now and my life then. For my 61st birthday, I hiked up Table Rock, because I could.”

That’s a long way from where she was prior to having surgery a little more than three years ago.

“We were in a crisis situation,” Ellis said. “It was that or die. I was really at that point. I can look back and see how close I was, if I hadn’t made those changes in my life. It was that or get better, but I had no idea how much better it was going to be.

“I owe it to St. Luke’s and the care team, the bariatric team. They gave me my life back.”

About The Author

Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.

Related Specialty

Weight Management

A healthy weight lowers your risk for health problems.