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“I Didn’t Want to Die Young” Share
Shelley Wilkinson

Feb, 2017

Physicians: Michael Schuhknecht, DO

At only 36 years of age, Shelley Wilkinson didn’t want to die young, but that was the future she saw looming before her. With a history of obesity and diabetes in her family, Shelley feared leaving her two young daughters without a mother.

“I wanted to be around for my children,” said Shelley. “They are my everything and the reason I am alive.”

Shelley had tried to make improvements to her health in the past including numerous well-known diets. But even when she managed to lose a few pounds, they always seemed to return. She was constantly tired and would miss out on valuable time with her children because she would come home from work and go straight to bed. Something had to change.

Taking the first step, Shelley scheduled a consultation with bariatric surgeon, Michael Schuhknecht, DO, at the Lakeland Health Comprehensive Weight Loss Center.

“Finding Dr. Schuhknecht saved my life,” said Shelley.

Shelley began meeting regularly with her care team. Together, they discussed what would be the best option to help her achieve her weight loss goals. Over the course of nine months, they embarked on a journey that resulted in a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, and eventually, the loss of over 110 pounds.

To prepare for the minimally invasive procedure which would reduce her stomach size by 60 percent, Shelley met with Dr. Schuhknecht, a psychologist, and a dietitian monthly. They discussed everything, from what to expect during surgery, as well as the lifestyle changes she would need to make after the procedure, including the foods she could and couldn’t eat. Throughout this process, Shelley admits she had a few revelations.

“Initially, I was just wanting to go in for the medical weight loss aspect offered by the Center,” said Shelley. “But through the process, I realized I was addicted to food and needed to make a more long-lasting change.”

This realization ultimately led to her decision to have weight loss surgery and she felt confident it was the best decision for her. The night before her surgery, Shelley had to stay overnight in the hospital and like every other night before, she took the pill prescribed to help control her diabetes.

“You will never have to take that pill again,” said Dr. Schuhknecht, as he watched her swallow it. Turns out he was right.

Many patients who undergo bariatric surgery find they are able to reduce their blood sugar to normal levels after surgery, eliminating the need for diabetes medications. This was also true in Shelley’s experience and since the surgery, diabetes is no longer a health concern of hers.

That is not the only change Shelley has seen since the surgery. Aside from losing weight, Shelley’s goal was to be a better inspiration for her family. She is creating a legacy for her daughters – an example of determination and of a healthy lifestyle that they are already starting to emulate even at a young age.

“I often bring my family to my appointments, so they can learn more about how to sustain a healthy lifestyle,” said Shelley. “Now, rather than missing out on time with my husband and daughters, we visit beaches and climb dunes together. There are less sweets and junk food in our house now, and more nutrient rich foods. I can’t thank the staff at the Weight Loss Center enough for changing my family’s life forever.”

Hear more of Shelley's story in the video below: