When mother-of-three Emma Hannett saw photos of herself at a friend’s wedding on Facebook, she was horrified.
"On the day I thought I looked fabulous, I had my hair and make-up done, I bought a lovely dress and I felt good. But then there were the classic photos that went round on Facebook and I saw myself very differently. I looked like a beached whale.
"That was it for me, it was a wake-up call and about three weeks later I heard an advert on the radio about weight loss surgery at Benenden Hospital. I thought to myself, ‘This is my chance, I’m turning 50 and I want to get myself fit, I want to be thin and I want to stay thin'. There’s been lots of pictures of me over the years where I’ve looked awful but that photo was the real turning point for me".
That was back in August when Emma tipped the scales at just under 16 stone but there was another trigger for her decision to have a gastric sleeve operation.
“The previous year, I lost a really good friend and she said to me, ‘Emma, if I could say one thing to you it’s this, you need to look after yourself and get yourself fit and healthy and you’re not getting any younger.
"She was such a good measure of how I was feeling and I held on to what she said to me for a long time. From about the age of 18, I’d continually been overweight and I’ve spent the last 30 years going up and down from 12 to 16 stone. I got a lot of comfort out of eating and I didn’t see it as a fuel, I saw it as a pleasure but I didn’t have a cut-off and that was my biggest barrier – learning how to control my eating habits.
"I was extremely conscious of my weight and I would think about it every day. I got into the habit of yo-yo dieting but I got the point where I thought, ‘this has got to stop’.”
Emma, a social worker from Kent, booked a free consultation with bariatric surgeon Mr Ahmed Hamouda and successfully underwent her operation in March. He talked me through each stage and I felt very safe. He operated on me on the Thursday, he came to see how I was doing on Friday and again on the Saturday so he gave a first class service and I felt looked after and well cared for.”
"I was back on my feet and doing light duties from day four and I went back to work after 10 days so it was a very quick recovery for me. Not only have I lost weight but I’ve also got myself fit and that has been just as big a life change. I started walking and running for 30 seconds at a time on day 25 after the operation and by week nine I was running 5kms. I now run up to 30kms a week and I’d never run in my life before. It has really inspired me to lose weight and I’ve really enjoyed it."
Fighting back tears, she said: "How I feel now makes me quite emotional because it has been a life-changing experience, it’s been fantastic. I’m slim, fit and healthy and have a BMI of 23, five months previously it was 36.”
Emma shared her story at Benenden’s weight loss Open Event in June and has now amazingly lost six stone in just five and a half months.
"I’ve been bowled over by the hospital from the moment I walked through the door. It looks very different from when my mum worked there for over 20 years. It’s absolutely brand new and sparkling clean and the service from the staff, their manner and conduct and the culture of the hospital is second to none. It’s been a really good experience for me.
"I know other people who have had bariatric surgery at other hospitals and none of them received the service I received. What I find so good about Benenden is the support services and after-care package. Since I started my journey, I’ve reached my desired weight and I still get support from the dietitian.
"I spoke to the psychologist last week and I’ve still got a couple more sessions to go before I’m signed off. My message to anyone thinking of having weight loss surgery at Benenden is, ‘Don’t be frightened, stand tall, be brave, have a target of what you want to weigh and be really clear about why you are doing it as it will change your life'. It’s definitely changed mine and, hand on heart, I am the happiest and most content I have ever been in my life”
Published on 26 September 2018