The year 2013 was a difficult time for Debbie. In January, she lost her husband, Tom, to cancer — and dealing with his death quickly became a struggle. For comfort, she turned to food.
“After Tom passed away, eating was a refuge. It was how I dealt with my grief,” said Debbie. “I definitely noticed I was starting to gain weight.”
As a nursing professor at Indiana Wesleyan University with a PhD in health services administration, Debbie knew her increasing weight might be contributing to the serious knee pain she was starting to experience. That’s when she knew it was time to make a change — and turned to Hendricks Regional Health.
“I found out I needed a total knee replacement, and that was difficult to hear. But it was also the path to more freedom and mobility, and an opportunity to start putting my health first again.”
Debbie was still struggling to find the motivation to get her health back on track — that is, until she decided she wasn’t going to do it for herself. Instead, Debbie found a new source of inspiration: her grandkids.
A passion for serving others.
Ever since she was a kid, Debbie has always loved to teach. But near the end of high school, she started to realize being a teacher wasn’t going to give her the lifelong fulfillment she wanted.
“I felt a calling to do something different,” said Debbie. “I started to feel like I could make the biggest positive impact working in health care, so I went to college to become an OB nurse. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Before she had even finished her undergraduate degree at Olivet Nazarene University, Debbie got an intriguing job offer to teach nursing. It was an opportunity to not only pursue her teaching passion, but also improve the lives of others through nursing.
“I just love nursing students. I feel like I’ve been able to be a positive influence on them, to help show them they’re leaders,” said Debbie. “In addition to my time as an OB nurse, I’ve taught clinical nursing in hospitals, childhood education classes and plenty of other healthcare courses.”
Debbie’s decades of experience have helped her mentor countless nurses, but all that time spent focusing on others — and trying to heal after losing her husband — meant Debbie was having a tough time focusing on herself. Her knee replacement was the first important step in getting back on track; it just took a little motivation from her family to get going.
Finding her reason.
About six years ago, Debbie moved to a new apartment — one connected to her daughter Cindi’s house — to be closer to her family. That not only lets her spend more time with Cindi and her husband, Brad, but also with their two boys, Elijah and Noah.
Debbie quickly found she loved living near her grandkids; however, as they started to get older — and more active — the physical demands on Debbie increased. The pain in her knee was starting to hold her back.
“My grandkids were wanting to play more sports, and I was having a hard time keeping up with them due to the pain,” said Debbie. “I also have a son, James, and his wife, Tonya, who live in Boston with their two wonderful kids, Ellie and Andrew. My knee pain was keeping me from visiting, so it was important that I get healthy for them, too.”
Debbie’s first big step in the right direction was a consultation with Dr. Chad Waits, an orthopedic surgeon at Hendricks Regional Health. After deciding together with Dr. Waits that a total knee replacement was the best option, she had the procedure.
Her knee replacement was a complete success. Although, during her recovery, she started to get concerned she wasn’t being active enough and working toward her weight-loss goal. After a discussion with Dr. Waits, she found a solution: the Lifesteps program at the Hendricks Regional Health YMCA.
A total transformation.
Lifesteps stresses the importance of nutrition, fitness and behavior modifications. This all-round wellness program is designed to help people take control of their health through healthy lifestyle choices. Lifesteps collaborates with HRH exercise physiologists and physical therapists along with other ancillary departments such as sleep or the diabetes center.
One of the most important people Debbie met through Lifesteps was Kaitie Delgado, a clinical dietitian working for Hendricks. Kaitie helped Debbie find the right nutrition strategies to impact her wellness goals.
The main thing I focus on with Debbie is making sure she has a balanced, nutritious diet that’s in line with her fitness plan,” said Kaitie. “After she hurt her knee, I encouraged her to eat foods that would help her body heal. It’s amazing how much nutrition is a part of the healing process.”
The relationship between Kaitie and Debbie has evolved beyond just nutrition. Kaitie is also a personal trainer — and someone who’s had knee surgery — so she and Debbie have plenty to talk about.
“There are lots of pieces to the puzzle when you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy — especially after surgery,” said Kaitie. “By going through Lifesteps and staying dedicated to her health, Debbie is putting all of those pieces together. She’s accomplished quite a lot since her procedure — I believe she’s ready to do whatever she wants.”
Starting new journeys.
Debbie has come a long way since her struggles with eating. And now that she has a healthy knee, she has much more freedom to enjoy her life — and she has a few plans.
“I’m so happy I can be more active again, and I’m going to take full advantage of that,” said Debbie. “I’m sure that will mean more sports with my grandkids here in town, and probably a trip to Boston coming up soon. With my knee feeling great, I can travel without worrying, and I just love that.”
Visiting Boston isn’t the only trip Debbie’s taking. She’s also planning a vacation to Israel in 2020, and even though there will be lots of walking and long travel, she’s ready for the challenge
“I can play with my grandkids again, I can explore the world, and it’s all thanks to Hendricks,” said Debbie. “I’ve been so impressed with everyone there. Dr. Waits, Kaitie and everybody else who’s helped me along the way from Hendricks are truly special people.
“Now I’m on a healthy path — and I’m so grateful, because I can use my newfound freedom to do all the things I want to do in life. Nothing could make me happier.”
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