Katie Payne, NewStart success story, rings the bell following her marathon finish.Katie Payne's deep sense of duty and honor led her to enlist in the Navy at the age of 18, where she served with pride for eight years. "Serving my country was a true honor," said Katie.

During her service, Katie started running more and more. It was not just about physical exercise; it was also an outlet for stress relief. “It was my escape, my stress relief, my way to clear my mind and recharge,” said Katie.

After serving in the Navy, Katie started to grow her family. She had four kids and life got busy. She found herself running less and less as the demands of daily life gradually took over. This shift in her routine, coupled with life's stresses, led to weight gain and health issues. She had trouble sleeping; she struggled with high blood pressure and she endured severe migraines.

As her health started taking a toll, she thought back to her days when she was running, when she was never winded. She wanted those days back and that was when she decided to make a change. “It’s time I focus on myself,” said Katie.

Katie's Journey Through Motherhood and Health

Juggling work and motherhood, Katie found herself constantly on the go, rarely having the time to prepare healthy meals. "I was always grabbing and going, which led to unhealthy choices," she said.

It wasn’t just the grab-and-go meals either. Katie noticed that she was losing stamina. She had a hard time keeping up with her four children. As a runner herself, she was keenly aware of her limitations, especially when attending her kids’ track meets. She felt winded walking up the steps. "It was disheartening. I used to be so active, and I was suddenly struggling with simple tasks like climbing stairs," she lamented. "I knew it was time for a change. I wanted to rediscover my love for running and reclaim my identity."

At 227 pounds, Katie felt her energy depleted at the end of the day. Then, a turning point came when several of Katie's coworkers shared their success stories after undergoing weight loss surgery. Inspired by their transformations, Katie made a firm decision. "That's it," she resolved. "If they can do it, I can do it."

A New Beginning

Katie's decision to meet with Dr. Drew Howard, an experienced bariatric surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, marked a pivotal moment in her journey toward a healthier life. Following a thorough evaluation, Dr. Howard recommended gastric sleeve surgery.

Katie Payne, NewStart success story, smiles in a red dress.The gastric sleeve, also known as sleeve gastrectomy, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure designed to promote weight loss by reducing the size of the stomach. During the surgery, a large portion of the stomach is removed, leaving behind a smaller, sleeve-shaped stomach. This results in a decreased capacity to hold food, leading to reduced calorie intake and subsequent weight loss. The procedure is typically performed laparoscopically, using small incisions in the abdomen, which helps minimize post-operative pain and shorten recovery time.

"The gastric sleeve surgery offers a powerful solution for weight loss by reducing the size of the stomach and removing hormones that cause hunger. We've seen great success with this procedure, helping patients achieve significant improvements in their health and quality of life,” said Dr. Howard.

The surgery went well, and Katie noticed a difference almost immediately. She started losing weight; she had more energy and she started to get the urge to run again. "Meeting with Dr. Howard and deciding to undergo gastric sleeve surgery was truly life-changing for me. It's given me a new lease on life and the chance to pursue a healthier, happier future,” said Katie.

Katie also began eating a healthier diet and exercising more. She lost 90 pounds, and she said she no longer has difficulty sleeping. Plus, her blood pressure was normal now and her headaches were gone. “I just feel like my old self again. I have more energy. I can keep up with my kids, sure they’re older now but I can do anything. Not long after surgery I started running again and that’s when the next challenge came and I was ready to tackle it," said Katie.

Running Toward Wellness

Katie started small. She did short runs, then the runs got longer and longer, and before she knew it, she was running 13.1 miles. Katie ran a half marathon in Houston and a half marathon in Fort Worth. “It felt amazing running again. I have always loved running and just to be able to do it again, was incredible,” said Katie.

Then inspired by her time serving in the Navy, she set her sights on one of the largest marathons in the country, the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, D.C. “The course passes by many iconic landmarks, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol. It’s so neat to see and I feel like it really paid tribute to my service,” said Katie.

She found her love for running while serving her country, so running in the very marathon that paid tribute to her service only seemed fitting. Now, at age 43, Katie is gearing up for another marathon, this time in Chicago.

Reflecting on her journey, Katie credits Dr. Howard with changing her life. “Just as in running, where you face obstacles, fatigue and doubt, so too in life do we encounter challenges that test our strength and resolve. But with perseverance and determination, we can push through, reach our goals and emerge stronger than before,” said Katie.

Woman looking at herself in the mirror
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