Nurse’s weight loss – Started with a warning sign and ended with a heavy decision

She was at a volleyball game when her face became flushed and her heart rate elevated. It wasn’t just the excitement of watching her daughter playing on the court. Paula Kramer was headed toward serious health issues.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

Looking back Paula Kramer recalls clues that she was embarrassed by her weight. There’s the clue that when she went to visit her husband at his sports bar she asked him to meet her outside in the parking lot. There’s also the clue that she nervously stood in line when her family visited an amusement park – fearing that she couldn’t be safely secured into the ride. And there’s the clue that she may have opted for a nursing desk job rather than work at the bedside.

As she eyes a milestone birthday in June – turning 50 – Kramer no longer feels that anxiety. In fact, she says she is thankful she made a big decision in the past year. Under the care of IU Health Dr. Nicole Lee, she underwent gastric sleeve surgery. The procedure, also known as a “sleeve gastrectomy” reduces the size of the stomach by surgically removing about 80 percent of the stomach. Before surgery, patients spend up to six months in supervised weight loss that includes sessions with health professionals such a psychological testing and nutrition.

“I had tried other weight loss programs and diets. I’d lose 30 pounds and gain right back and then some,” said Kramer, who has been an IU Health nurse for six years. “Dr. Lee was amazing at explaining everything to me. She told me this wasn’t a magic fix; it’s a weight loss tool and it’s up to me how I use it. This just gave me the tools to succeed.”

Married to Larry Kramer and the mother to three children Sylvie, 16, Gabi, 18, and Ethan, 13, Kramer said she began gaining weight in her 20s. At her height she weighed 264 pounds. Now, eight months post surgery, she weighs 169 pounds.

The wake up call came when she was sitting in the bleachers at her daughter’s volleyball game.

“We were in tournament time and they were undefeated. I always get a little flushed at the games with all the excitement, but this time it was different,” said Kramer. She looked down at her Apple watch and her heart rate was 140. “I could feel my heart pounding and someone mentioned my face was red hot.” A few days later she checked her heart rate again after she had been sitting quietly at her desk and it was again 140.

“My mom was overweight. She passed away at the age of 70 and I knew the risk factors,” said Kramer. By the time she decided to have gastric sleeve surgery she was on medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol and a heart condition, was diagnosed as pre diabetic and had sleep apnea. “My kids are still young. I was scared,” said Kramer. “I just adore Dr. Lee. I was scared about my health and I was scared if I made this big decision. She understood my concerns and coached me through the whole thing.”

Surgery was July 24, 2019. Since then she has dropped from a size 22 to a size 12. “It’s weird to go to a normal store to shop for clothes. I haven’t done that since I was in my 20s,” said Kramer.

And now, she’s noticing the little things that she couldn’t do before – like crossing her legs, confidently climbing on that roller coaster, and taking in workouts with her daughters at the gym.

“I feel better. I feel healthier and I feel more confident,” said Kramer. “People who haven’t seen me for awhile take notice and that’s so encouraging.”