By Sharon Aron Baron
Ashley Pruden, 38, is no stranger to juggling multiple responsibilities. During the day, she is a full-time investigator for the state; after business hours, she works as a sitter for dogs and cats and regularly picks up work delivering packages for Amazon. She’s also a proud dog mom to three golden retrievers.
It may be surprising to some that such a busy person could be obese, as Pruden weighed 390 pounds at her heaviest. She struggled with her weight most of her life and said she was relentlessly bullied about her size in middle and high school.
“I always felt like I was imprisoned in a body that didn’t match my soul, because I love adventurous, outdoor activities,” Pruden said. “My weight held me back from so many things I loved, like scuba diving. It was hard finding diving gear that fit me. It was also difficult getting around the boat and even harder to climb back onboard after the dive was over.”
After extensive research for the right hospital and bariatric surgeon for her, the Hollywood, FL resident made the life-changing decision in 2021 to undergo a bariatric procedure at Broward Health Imperial Point to improve her long-term health.
Pruden found Chi Zhang, M.D., a general and bariatric surgeon with Broward Health Physician Group and the medical director of the bariatric program at Broward Health Imperial Point.
“Pruden lived with escalating hypertension, nocturnal asthma, high blood pressure, migraines, and arthritis,” Dr. Zhang said. “Following her robotic-assisted gastric bypass procedure on July 26, 2021, Pruden lost 150 pounds, and all her health conditions improved.”
According to Dr. Zhang, a gastric bypass produces faster weight loss in the first year. “The duration of the procedure is 90 minutes, followed by an overnight hospital stay, and recovery is relatively quick,” he said.
In addition to the surgical services that Broward Health offers, Pruden successfully lost weight through nutritional changes, exercising, and attending monthly virtual support group meetings.
“The integrated approach of the bariatric surgery program at Broward Health is what sets us apart,” Dr. Zhang said.
Pruden appreciated being able to coordinate required pre-surgical approvals from a cardiologist and pulmonologist and receive a mental health screening and blood work under the same health system.
“Broward Health provides psychiatric evaluation, full medical assessment, explanation of the surgery, and follow-up appointments,” Dr. Zhang said. “We provide all the tools for the success of our patients.”
A year after surgery, Pruden said she has significantly more energy, better coordination and improved flexibility. She can more easily do things many people take for granted, such as crossing her legs, getting in and out of vehicles, and shopping for clothes. She is back to scuba diving and chooses the stairs even when there is an elevator just for the exercise.
Before Pruden’s procedure, she was self-conscious, going as far as to digitally edit and crop every photo of herself before sharing it with her family. That behavior is history now, she said, and she’s proud of how she looks.
“My goal is to continue working toward my ideal weight and staying healthy,” Pruden said.
To learn more about Broward Health’s bariatric services, visit BrowardHealth.org/Bariatric or call 954-759-7400.
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- Sharon Aron Baron is a Parkland resident and editor of Talk Media. She has been covering Parkland news since 2012. Parkland Talk was created to provide News, Views, and Entertainment for the residents of Parkland.
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