Kim Slaughter and her husband, Daniel, were already at the table, smiling and chatting when we joined them for dinner and to conduct this interview. Kim’s bright blue eyes caught ours and for the next two hours we were enthralled by her inspiring story. A special thanks to Kim for allowing us to share her story here.
The last thing Kim expected to get from her dad in the final hours of his life was tough love. “Well little girl,” he said, “your mother died at age 62, I’m dying at 62 and if you don’t do something to change, you’re going to do the same.” Kim’s mother who was 5’1” tall and weighed 240 pounds had passed away just six months prior from heart disease, a result of her obesity and diabetes. Now Kim’s dad was losing his battle with pancreatic cancer.
That was 2002. Kim was 36 years old and at 5’4” weighing 240 pounds she, like her mother, was obese. “Growing up, my mother always thought of food as fun and grocery shopping was a form of entertainment,” said Kim. “Our mother/daughter time was spent on the couch consuming our own half-gallon of ice cream on Sunday afternoons while watching old movies together.”
It took losing both parents but a year later, in 2003, Kim took her dad’s words to heart and decided to take more serious steps toward losing the weight. “My dad always made me feel that I could do anything,” says Kim, “and I wanted to prove him right.” It’s not that she hadn’t tried to lose weight over the years. She had tried most every diet plan, but allowed life stresses to get in the way of success. And now, still in her thirties, Kim was a diabetic, taking 29 pills and two shots of insulin a day. She worked full time and volunteered, but felt constant pain in her feet and legs due to her weight. Married with three kids, Kim had every reason to live but often wondered if she would die young if she continued to put her health at risk.
In 2004, at more than 100 pounds overweight, Kim decided to pursue gastric bypass surgery. Living in Pennsylvania at the time, Kim found a surgeon who accepted her as his patient. Qualifying for healthcare insurance to cover the procedure proved challenging, the two-year process requiring Kim to work with a team of specialists –– cardiologist, pulmonologist, dietitian, nutritionist, and psychologist –– to prepare her for what to expect pre- and post-surgery. Just about the time Kim was about to be approved, her insurance coverage changed causing her approval to be delayed yet another year.
Finally, in February 2007, Kim arrived at the hospital, wearing size 18-20 clothing, for the four-hour procedure during which the bariatric surgeon divided her stomach into a small upper pouch and a much larger lower “remnant” pouch, then rearranged her small intestine to connect to both. She was sent home the next day. Her strict diet regimen which she adhered to religiously over the following months consisted first of liquids, followed by soft foods, semi-solids, and finally to selective solids as her body adjusted. One year post-op, Kim was wearing a size 6, and she remains at her “fighting weight” today.
A fighter she is. In addition to her lifetime battle with weight and to taking care of her ailing parents, Kim has cared for her three children and handled family matters while her husband, Daniel, serving in the US Navy as a Chief Electronics Technician on submarine duty, was deployed for up to six months at time. Kim and Daniel beam as they share that two of their three children have also served in the military, their son in the Army and their younger daughter in the Navy, while their older daughter is successfully pursuing a career in Archaeology.
Today, the Slaughters live in Hillsboro, Ohio, where they own and operate Rocky Fork Marine. Not one to stop learning or improving herself, Kim is also working full time while going to college to get her RN, a degree she hopes to have in hand by 2018. Motivated by her own weight loss, she is passionate about wanting to help other people pursue a healthier life. “I’ve been there,” states Kim, “I know what it takes and if I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Kim is one of approximately 150,000 people each year in the U.S. who undergo gastric bypass surgery. She is among the 70% of patients who are successful at keeping off the weight. “A lot of the success is mental,” says Kim. “You need to understand what motivates you and why you eat more than you need to, and when you are most likely to repeat that behavior, because if you go back to the old way, you will fail.”
“’A lot of the success is mental,’ says Kim. ‘You need to understand what motivates you and why you eat more than you need to, and when you are most likely to repeat that behavior, because if you go back to the old way, you will fail.’”
Following surgery, the pounds came off quickly for Kim, a total of 90 pounds altogether. Daniel admits he was worried at times about Kim’s rapid weight loss, but the bariatric surgeon and other specialists assured them all was well and that Kim’s experience was to be expected.
“What I didn’t expect and was unprepared for was all of the loose, extra skin I was left with, especially around my face and neck,” says Kim. “You can hide the loose skin on your body, or have a tummy tuck, but nobody prepared me for my saggy face. I had what I called my ‘Yertl the Turtle” look, and you can’t hide your face.”
To say Kim felt dismayed would be an understatement. “I had put all of this work into getting qualified for the weight loss surgery, recovering and following the post-op eating plan. Shopping for clothes was fun for the first time in my life… I even dropped shoe sizes… but it was depressing for me to see how my face looked,” notes Kim. “It was like the air had been let out of it. Both my face and my confidence were seriously deflated.”
After three years of thinking about getting something done to get rid of her loose facial skin and researching surgeons and procedures, it was June 2013 when Kim walked into the office of facelift expert, Dr. Robert Smyth in Cincinnati OH. “I met with Dr. Smyth, who assured me that looking my age (and maybe a little younger) was very possible with a facelift. The staff was very kind, and immediately started feeling like friends. I couldn’t wait to proceed.”
Four weeks later, Dr. Smyth performed a minimally-invasive lower facelift on Kim to remove the excess skin from her lower face and neck, a procedure he has done more than 3,000 times, each facelift surgery customized to the patient. He also gave Kim a chin implant, in conjunction with her facelift, to balance out her jaw line. The entire procedure was performed under strictly local anesthesia and took about 1-1/2 hours total to complete. “I didn’t feel any pain and in fact, I slept through most of it,” says Kim. “At one point I recall asking Dr. Smyth a question but had no pain.”
“Four weeks later, Dr. Smyth performed a minimally-invasive lower facelift on Kim to remove the excess skin from her lower face and neck, a procedure he has done more than 3,000 times, each surgery customized to the patient…”
Nine days later, Kim returned to Dr. Smyth’s Facial Cosmetic Center where the surgical technicians removed the sutures and Dr. Smyth checked her progress. Kim was very pleased with the results and amazed at how quickly she was healing. She returned to work the next day.
“Having the saggy skin removed from my face and neck completed my feeling of being the ‘new person’ that I had struggled to be for so long,” shares Kim. “All I can say is that I’m fully confident again… I’m back!”
Kim’s children and husband couldn’t be more proud of her. “People think I got remarried,” smiles Daniel. Kim laughs as she gets up from the table to head back home. She’s petite. She’s healthy. She’s happy. She knows how lucky she is to have this new lease on life. And now she can’t wait to get her RN and help other people feel the same way. You can’t help but smile right along with her.