Hilton and her patients display the butterfly logos on their t-shirts, symbolizing their new lives after surgery

After extraordinary weight loss, patients race to inspire

Every year, the Augusta University Half Marathon takes place in downtown Augusta. Thousands of runners take part in the half marathon, 10K and 5K.

Among those runners this year was a group of bariatric surgery patients from AU Health. Dr. Renee Hilton challenged her patients to run the 5K with her this year, and five took her up on it.

In several cases, patients have lost 100 pounds or more. All of them have been keeping active, walking and exercising every day to keep the weight off.

On race day February 23, the patients were excited and somewhat nervous as many of them had never done anything like this before.

“Never in a million years did I ever think I would do a 5K,” said Michelle Rollins. “This is a whole new life for me, and I’m ready to show the world what can happen when you join a team and have that support.”

Members of the group often turn to each other for guidance in everyday life.

“Whenever we have those not-so-great days or we’re beating ourselves up, we can always shoot a message to one of the group members, and they will tell you that you can do it, and that’s what I love about the program,” said Rollins.

Dr. Renee Hilton and her patients at the Augusta Half MarathonYvette Wilson “Gwen” Van Winkle was exuberant about taking part in the race: “I have taken off 160 pounds thanks to my lifesaver, Dr. Hilton. I’m excited, I’m going to make it! I walk three and a half miles every day, so I know I can make 5K.”

Stacy Owen has come a long way. She said that she couldn’t walk three miles a year ago.

“It makes me feel awesome. It’s a big accomplishment for me. I want to do the half marathon within at least two years.”

Hilton explained that the gathering was a way to do something fun, fit and healthy together as a group.

“It’s symbolic to show how far our patients have come,” she said. “I think this symbolizes what the program is about, which is not just weight loss, it’s about being healthy, being fit and getting out and doing things in your community.”

Stacy Owen and Yvette Wilson “Gwen” Van Winkle running the 5K

Hilton is also very passionate about providing access to this life-saving surgery. She is testifying in front of the Georgia Senate in the coming weeks to advocate for bariatric surgery to be added to state employee benefit plans, like 43 other states. The patients’ participation in the 5K was also a way of bringing awareness to this issue.

To ease the nerves of some of the patients, Hilton told them that they already walk longer distances every day.

“I would say the surgeon was more nervous than the patients and needed a little more convincing.”

Hilton hopes that more people will join them next year.

“Even if you aren’t at your goal weight yet, even if you are still overweight or if you’re suffering from obesity, you can still get out and do something fun like this.”

The Augusta Half marathon takes place annually in February
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Henry Hanks
Written by
Henry Hanks

Henry Hanks is Senior News & Communications Coordinator at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-522-3023 or hehanks@augusta.edu.

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Henry Hanks Written by Henry Hanks

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University and AU Health. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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