Losing Weight, Gaining Hope

It was a beautiful crisp day in June of 2013 when Jewel Hurst of D’Iberville realized her health could no longer bare the poor nutrition habits she had developed. She was on vacation with her family in South Dakota when a simple walk up a hill to have dinner caused her heart to work so hard it frightened her.

“It felt like it was beating out of my chest. It was out of control,” she said.

When she returned home and began looking through her vacation photos, she realized something had to be done. She had reached a weight of 297 pounds, had high blood pressure, was a borderline diabetic and experienced ankle pain, knee pain and chest pain on a regular basis. She was also taking medication for anxiety and depression, but she knew it was food that she was using primarily to comfort her from difficult memories of the past.

It was that moment that Jewel made the decision to take back control of her life. As an educator, she began as she would instruct anyone else, with research. She attended a weight loss seminar and began reading up on weight loss surgery. Everything she read regarding bariatrics in Mississippi, outcomes and success rates led her to Dr. Avara and the South Mississippi Surgical Weight Loss Center.

In July of 2014, Jewell met Dr. Avara who set her on a path to success. While bariatric surgery would be a part of the plan, it was one component of many. The comprehensive weight loss program at South Mississippi Surgical Weight Loss Center is focused on addressing obesity with modern treatment strategies, research and education.

“I realized I had such a lack of knowledge about food…how to pair foods, read labels, the effect of certain foods on the body,” said Jewel. “I immersed myself. I educated myself. I prepared myself to change my life.”

For three months, Jewel changed her habits before she changed her body. She committed so fully, she began the post-surgery eating plan prior to the procedure, losing 30 pounds on her own.

In December of 2014, Dr. Avara performed Gastric Sleeve surgery at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula. Gastric Sleeve surgery, also known as Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG), is a restrictive type of bariatric surgery that permanently reduces the size of the stomach.

During surgery, the surgeon removes about three-quarters (60%-80%) of the stomach along with the outside curve. The new stomach or “sleeve” is the shape of a banana, which spans the original distance from the esophagus to the small intestine. The pyloric valve, the normal outlet which controls the release of food from the stomach to the small intestine, continues to function normally. The surgery also helps to control hunger by removing the upper stomach portion, which is the area that produces the hunger-stimulating hormone, ghrelin.

Following surgery, Jewell followed instructions precisely. By the end of January, she had lost an additional twenty pounds for a total of fifty pounds in less than six months.

“I was so blessed to have Dr. Avara and his whole team. I believe this is his mission in life—his calling. He truly cares about healing the whole person with both medical expertise and support.”

Following surgery, there was no turning back for Jewel. Her insatiable appetite for this new life of health coupled with the incredible support of her husband Brian and his parents ensured a level of success she had never known before.

Today she and her husband preview menus prior to restaurant visits, meal prep every Sunday, attend nutrition classes and keep meal journals. Instead of comforting herself with food when feeling stressed or anxious, she now goes for walks or reads books.

“As an abuse survivor, I used to feed my demons,” said Jewell. “Today, I feed my soul.”

Jewel is now at a very healthy weight of 145 pounds and is ready for hiking in Moab, Utah as part of a 17 state journey to celebrate her 50th birthday as well as her transformation. She can’t wait to see her daughter, who has not seen her in 18 months, and she plans to wear a little black dress, something she has always hoped she could do.

“If you are in the same shoes right now, I encourage you to learn more about Dr. Avara, the weight loss center and to surround yourself with support,” said Jewel. “Through therapy and nutrition education, you can break the emotional tie to food. You just have to value yourself, commit to yourself and do not be afraid. “

The South Mississippi Surgical Weight Loss Center was found by South Mississippi Surgeons in the year 2000. For over 30 years, South Mississippi Surgeons have been providing quality surgical care for the residents of Jackson County.

Dr. Avara has practiced general surgery in this community since 1987 and has performed over 2,500 bariatric procedures. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the Eastern Association for Surgery of Trauma, and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

To learn more, visit South Mississippi Surgical Weight Loss Center to register for a free informational seminar, offered online or in-person at the clinic.