GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) - When Go Red for Women first highlighted Connie Jones in 2009, we were celebrating her accomplishments in terms of improving her health. Now in 2013, Connie continues to amaze us!
Connie Jones, of Grand Rapids, lost her father from a stroke when he was 47 years old, and it was weighing heavily on her mind when she had a doctor's appointment on the anniversary of his death."I was almost the same age as he was when he died," said Connie. "And here I was weighing 400 pounds. Would I have a stroke soon? Was there something I could do to improve myself?"
She tried to change her life with small steps. At first it was just walking down her driveway for the mail and trying to eat better. She lost four pounds and thought, "maybe I can do more". When Connie started walking around the block, her knees hurt but she kept going. Those small steps began to make a difference and she worked up to three miles six days a week while walking at the mall. But Connie didn't stopped there; she's done Pilates, cardio salsa and cardio aerobics and several other activities. Then after all of the positive changes, tragedy struck.
Connie suffered her first stroke in March 7, 2007. She was having a few odd health symptoms such as a partial loss of vision while at a friend's home . Yet, she drove home and then called a friend. While they were on the phone, she began to stutter while speaking. The friend called the paramedics.
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the No. 4 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so that portion of the brain dies.
While every stroke is unique, some type of disability or physical limitation following the stroke is common. This could include vision loss, paralysis on the left or right side of the body, behavioral style, speech and language skills, and memory loss.
Connie went to St. Mary's Health Care and then to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for treatment and aggressive physical therapy. She needed to relearn several skills including speech and walking.
A large part of her recovery was to continue with her fitness regime even though she was having Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs), commonly called mini-strokes. These brief strokes are often precede larger strokes and so are often called "warning strokes."
She participated in Spectrum Health's Sisters in Action program to learn more about her health, take nutritional classes, and she became a member of the David D. Hunting YMCA.
"I just keep moving forward no matter what," said Connie. "I feel blessed to be able to keep being active. I keep giving God thanks for another day and try to make it the best day ever."
She is fun loving and supportive of others who ask her for help in their own health journey. Even though Connie has temptations and family stresses, including the fact that her only child served three tours of duty in Iraq, she is her own greatest motivator to stay healthy. She encourages all women to exercise on a regular basis and to pay attention to their diet.
After we profiled her once, Connie decided to undergo bariatric surgery to help with her weight loss journey. Bariatric surgery promotes weight loss by changing the digestive system's anatomy through surgery and limiting the amount of food that can be eaten and digested.
She's thriving on her new nutritional plans, continues to exercise and has now lost 250 pounds. She's fitting into size 7 clothing.
"My dad and my mom would have been real proud to see me now," says Connie. "My co-workers at McKesson have been cheering on my progress for a while now. I have a great support system in place and enjoy this new life. You better watch out for this swaggin' diva!"
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