Walking and Lifestyle Changes Empower This Employee to Achieve Her Goals
August 26, 2016 by Kavita Sherman, writer
In less than a year, Anna Dusseau, neurology education and fellowship coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital, has gone from couch potato to 5K runner.
In between, she’s lost 85 pounds, encouraged her colleagues and family to get more active and changed her life so it now mirrors more of what she wants for herself.
Anna’s journey started 8 years ago when she first looked into bariatric surgery. Standing 5-feet, 2-inches tall, Anna weighed almost 220 pounds. At that time, she decided to lose the weight on her own and tried weight loss programs and exercise to slim down to a healthy weight.
“The things I tried worked for awhile, then the weight would come right back,” she said. “None of it worked for me. When I went back to the bariatric surgeon after all those years, I was exactly the same weight.”
She didn’t feel well, either. Although she didn’t have any medical conditions brought on by excess weight, she didn’t have much energy either. Additionally, she feared that if she didn’t do something, she would eventually need joint replacement surgery like her relatives had.
“There’s a lot of arthritis in my family,” Anna said. “A lot of my family has had knees and hips replaced. I wanted to avoid all that. I already had a lot of pain in my feet, legs and knees.”
Anna was also tired of watching life pass her by and wanted to be active and able to do things with her husband and 2 teenagers. That’s when she decided to undergo bariatric surgery.
“I don’t know what finally made me decide to have the surgery,” she said. “Another co-worker had it done and I watched her melt away. More importantly, I wanted to feel better in my 40s than I had in my 30s.”
Taking Healthy Steps
In November 2015, Anna underwent gastric bypass surgery. As she expected, she has lost more than 50 percent of her excess body weight. What she didn’t anticipate was the effect her weight loss would have on her family, colleagues and life.
“I wasn’t very active before,” Anna said. “Now I’m leading by example.”
For instance, Anna got involved in a regional Healthy Steps Challenge program, becoming not only a regular walker, but her department’s team captain as well.
“I had more team members this year than I ever have had,” she said. “We had people pacing around the department just to increase their steps. It was awesome! Some of them are continuing their step challenges. It’s so great to have that awareness spread all over the department.”
At home, her family began eating differently and exercising more.
“We’ve modified our entire family’s routine,” she said. “Everyone is eating more protein — your body needs that as fuel and we weren’t getting enough.”
The biggest change came when Anna started attending Akron Marathon Brown Bag workshops on her lunch hour and a Couch to 5K after-work program.
Both programs are offered for free or at a reduced cost and are meant to support the hospital’s sponsorship of the Akron Marathon Race Series by giving employees a way to get involved and excited about this affiliation.
In the process, Anna learned about what’s involved in running, such as gear, pace, cadence, etc., and how to run without hurting herself.
“My husband is a runner,” Anna said. “I had aspirations to run, do a half marathon — or at least participate in a relay. It was on my bucket list to participate in the Warrior Dash in honor of my friend who just beat breast cancer.”
In July, Anna accomplished her goal by completing her first 5K race. Additionally, she’s now signed up to run the Akron Marathon Team Relay on Sept. 24 with her husband and 3 co-workers.
She’s also leading a group of co-workers in Children’s first Employee Challenge. Called the Couchless Caregivers, the team includes co-workers who are participating in the marathon by volunteering, running, donating or cheering
“My 13-year-old daughter, Lily, joined me for the Falls Cares 5K Run / Walk / Kids Run,” she said. “She ran the 1 mile. It was our first committed event together and she’s excited for the next one to come as well. We’re rebuilding our family structure around moving more and supporting each other, even on our not-so-healthy days.”
More important, Anna’s health has improved dramatically.
“My ultimate goal was to be firmly planted in the ‘normal’ BMI (body mass index) category for my height and that has been achieved,” she said. “I’m also thrilled with the employee health assessment I recently completed. All of my results were in the green. I’ve literally never had that in my life. The lady who did my health screening said, ‘I don’t have much to tell you other than keep doing what you’re doing.’ I almost cried. It was a very pivotal moment for me.”
This story is part of a series called A Mile in Their Shoes that features Akron Children’s Hospital employees who are participating in the Akron Marathon Race Series.