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HCA Midwest Health

Mikki Wehrli

As a former runner, Mikki Wehrli of Olathe, Kansas, knows regaining the body she once had will be a marathon and not a sprint, even with the help of a powerful, proven weight loss tool like bariatric surgery on her side.

June 20, 2024
Mikki Wehrli

As a former runner, Mikki Wehrli of Olathe, Kansas, knows regaining the body she once had will be a marathon and not a sprint, even with the help of a powerful, proven weight loss tool like bariatric surgery on her side. But the 57-year-old hospital switchboard operator also believes the reward at the end of the journey will be worth all the sacrifices along the way. 

“It’s hard work, and you have to change your whole lifestyle and mindset,” Mikki says. “But it’s worth it as you see the weight come off, and you are able to do things you hadn’t been able to do in the past. Like crossing your legs. Walking around a store without using a motorized cart. Buying smaller clothes.”

For most of her life, Mikki had few problems keeping her weight in check, although when she was younger she did struggle with anorexia resulting in fasting behaviors that she continues to battle periodically. However, in the past decade a tsunami of misfortune has washed over her, bringing with it a tumultuous cycle of illnesses and tragedy that left her personal life spiraling and caused her weight to shoot out of control.

Mikki’s maladies began in 2014, when she was diagnosed with stage 2 papillary thyroid carcinoma – the most-common kind of thyroid cancer. This resulted in a complete thyroidectomy and 10 lymph nodes being removed. The following month, she had a complete hysterectomy. She says these two procedures marked the beginning of her issues with gaining weight.

The next year, Mikki suffered a bad fall, injuring her knee and back, which meant she could no longer run like she once had further exacerbating her challenges with gaining weight. And then in 2018, she lost her oldest daughter to a drug overdose, which left her seriously depressed and vulnerable to gaining more weight. By the time everything had taken its toll on Mikki’s physical and emotional well-being, she weighed 353 pounds and was approved for disability and Medicare. Finally, when her doctor said she was pre-diabetic it flipped a switch and she was ready to take action.

“I wasn’t going to let myself become diabetic, so I decided to make a change for the better,” she says. That decision led to a referral from her endocrinologist to see Dr. Nicole Fearing, board-certified general and bariatric surgeon and medical director of the bariatric program at Menorah Medical Center – a part of HCA Midwest Health – and eventually gastric bypass surgery in October 2021.

“Mikki was a good candidate for gastric bypass surgery because she fit the profile for the procedure very well,” Dr. Fearing says. “Plus, she was really highly motivated, and that makes a big difference.”

Mikki has high praise for Dr. Fearing and her team because of their forthright candor regarding her health and the time they spent meticulously explaining everything that would be involved in her weight loss journey.

“Gastric bypass involves creating a small pouch out of the stomach that is about the size of a hard-boiled egg,” Dr. Fearing says. “We divide the small intestine and then reattach it directly to the pouch. It’s the second most popular weight loss surgery in this country.”

“Recovery has been harder than I expected,” says Mikki, who had lost 131 pounds by March 2024. “One of the biggest surprises has been how long it has taken me to lose the weight. My main issue is that if I fast – which I try not to do – my weight loss plateaus, and that makes it take longer to get the weight off. If I can eat small amounts every three hours then I do better, and the weight comes off faster.”

With more than half of her weight loss goal behind her, Mikki reports her life is coming back together nicely as she continues her quest to weigh 140 pounds. In the past, her weight and other physical problems kept Mikki from walking and being active, but now she reports regularly logging 10,000 steps a day. In addition, she and her husband are back to enjoying walks together with their dogs, playing with their two cats and taking day trips. And along with the physical improvements have come positive emotional changes, as well.

“My self-esteem has improved,” says Mikki, who plans to also have cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin when she gets closer to her goal weight. “I’m no longer embarrassed by my weight, so I don’t hide from the camera or feel like I should stay out of the public. It may be taking longer than anticipated, but it’s still well worth it.”

The journey to controlling your weight and well-being can be daunting, but at HCA Midwest Health, you don’t have to face this challenge alone. Our network of compassionate bariatric surgeons are here to guide you step-by-step on your journey toward reclaiming your health. Find a physician or take a weight loss quiz at

June 20, 2024