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HERRIN — Obesity is a serious issue, and the problems related to it are increasing, according to Dr. Saad Ajmal, bariatric surgeon with New Life Weight Loss Center in Herrin. New Life specializes in bariatric surgery, often called weight loss surgery, and cares for patients at all stages of the process.

“Bariatric surgery is a journey. We at New Life are with you for the journey,” Ajmal told a group of patients gathered from a clothing swap. “Your success reinvigorates us.”

In Herrin on Monday, New Life sponsored its second clothing swap to benefit patients. Hope Daniell, program coordinator at New Life, said patients lose weight for up to 18 months after surgery and often drop sizes rapidly. The clothing swap, which is free of charge, gives them a time to socialize, hear some success stories and take home something they can use.

Patients bring clothing that they can no longer wear because of their weight loss, and pass it along to someone who can use it.

Barb Harrigan has a hard time shopping for smaller sizes.

“I still can’t in my brain think that I am that small. I still pick up large and medium clothing,” Harrigan said as she looked through a stack of shirts. “My grandkids are able to give me hand-me-downs.”

As bariatric patients lose weight, pretty soon nothing fits. Because the weight loss continues, patients like Harrigan do not want to invest much in clothing that will fit a short time. The clothing swap is the perfect answer.

“It enables you to get a whole new wardrobe without paying a cent,” Harrigan said. “I love to bless other people with my clothes.”

“For me, the best part of a clothing swap is the testimonials,” Dr. Saad Ajmal said.

Amanda Russell of Johnston City gave one of the volunteer testimonials. Russell had surgery on April 18 and has lost a little more than 90 pounds. She went through all the diet fads, and nothing worked for her. She did her research and concluded surgery was a good option for her.

“I decided this is what I needed to do so save my life,” Russell said. “They tell you to find your why, and my daughter was my why. I wanted to see her grew up, get married and have a family.”

Christine Sims of Du Quoin started thinking about bariatric surgery in 2016, but realized she was not ready to make lifelong changes. A year later, Sims decided she did want her five children to experience losing a parent at a young age, like she did when her father died.

“I wanted to be here to see them grow up, to see my grandkids,” Sims said.

She had gastric bypass surgery on Sept. 25, 2017. She weighed 296 pounds. Today, she weighs 185 pounds, just 30 pounds from her original goal weight of 155 pounds.

During the evening, patients also shared tips and strategies for surviving the holiday season, talk to exercise physiologists, dietitians and cosmetologists.

Daniell said anyone interested in bariatric surgery is welcome to attend an information session. Upcoming sessions are planned in Carbondale, Herrin, Mount Vernon and Marion. Prospective patients must attend an information session before making an appointment with a physician.

For more information, visit newlifeweightlosscenter.com.

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Reporter

Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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