Jackie Blankenship and Sandy Clark are sisters from Point Pleasant who have always traveled together. Their trips have helped them store memories that will last them their lifetimes, which are now likely longer than they previously thought.
At one point, Blankenship and Clark each had extra weight that kept them between 240 and 250 pounds each. When Clark's grandchildren were born in 2005, the sisters decided to learn more about a solution to their weight problems. Lifetime Weight Watchers members and frequent dieters, the sisters decided to explore weight loss surgery at Cabell Huntington Hospital's Center for Surgical Weight Control.
They met with Medical Director Blaine Nease, MD, of the Center for Surgical Weight Control and soon decided to have a gastric LAP-BAND procedure performed. This type of weight-loss surgery does not require stapling or cutting of the stomach.
Being overweight was embarrassing for Jackie. As she and her sister travel frequently together, Jackie once found herself struggling to fit into an airplane seatbelt. Too embarrassed to ask for a seatbelt extender, Jackie said she instead squeezed herself into the seatbelt and into a sweat.
"We have climbed a volcano together since our surgery," Jackie said.
Sandy is grateful that she will be alive to watch her grandchildren grow up. Before losing more than 70 pounds, she was worried her health would deteriorate.
"I had high blood pressure and cholesterol problems," Sandy said. "I just didn't feel well carrying all that weight."
Her sister said being diagnosed in the same year with diabetes and vein problems in her legs from carrying too much weight were the events that helped her make her decision. "Those capped it for me," Jackie said. "I thought, 'what could happen next year?'"