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Alayna no longer shies away from people… or a challenge

Published on Tuesday, March 14, 2017
bariatric patient alayna

Whatever Alayna Partaka sets her mind to, she pursues with a passionate determination to succeed. This drive has helped the Saginaw resident overcome many obstacles. But when it came to finding a lasting solution to her obesity, she found the extra tools and support she needed by reaching out to McLaren Bariatric and Metabolic Institute for professional medical help.

Prior to 2014, Alayna was used to working hard. She had worked nights at Meijer to pay her way through college and maintain an internship. For several years, she slept only three hours a night. But her determination payed off. After graduation, she married and landed a position as a creative director. She loved her career, but it was demanding, working 60-70 hours a week.

“I was trying to be the best at my job, the best friend, the best wife,” she says. “I had a great house.” It was everything she had planned but the demands were taking a toll on her.

“In my life everything was perfect, except for me,” she admitted. “I didn’t ever take time for me.”

That’s when she focused her attention on tackling her weight. At more than 300 pounds, obesity was one issue she wanted to change about herself. However, it proved to be one of her most difficult challenges.

“I started doing crazy things like working out two hours in the morning, being at work all day, then exercising two hours again at night,” Alayna recalls.

She was feeling better and seeing results, losing as much as 90 pounds. The she suffered an injury to her foot that kept her away from the gym. At the same time she began a new job and the extra weight soon came back, gaining and additional 10-20 pounds. This wasn’t her first setback relating to weight loss. She had given up refined sugars for a year, dropping almost 100 pounds only to gain it all back. She felt like she had tried everything and she was failing. 

“Professionally I was at the top of my career, but personally I was failing and it was really hard on me.”

Right at the point when she was her heaviest, her sister lost custody of her 8-year-old son, and Alayna and her husband took him in. She had always wanted to have children but polycystic ovarian syndrome, which has been linked with obesity in some women, interfered with her efforts getting pregnant. During a very emotional six-month period, she underwent fertility treatment which ended unsuccessfully in the same week that her sister died suddenly. Alayna and her husband became full-time parents to their nephew. Although she was devastated by these losses in her life, she felt it was a sign that her life was going down a different path. She did some soul searching and decided to make a lasting change for her health.

“I didn’t want something to happen to me and have him lose me, or have my parents have to go through that type of heartache again,” she shared. “I called a bunch of places and decided to make an appointment with Dr. Kia (at McLaren Bariatric and Metabolic Institute). I met the criteria for bariatric surgery. Before he would schedule the surgery, he challenged me to lose 25 pounds. I probably sounded cocky when I told him that wouldn’t be a problem. But I had lost bigger amounts than that several times over. Twenty-five pounds was easy for me.”

She lost closer to 35 pounds in the three months before her sleeve gastrectomy procedure in June 2014.

Deciding on McLaren Bariatric and Metabolic Institute was initially for financial reasons. She had to cover some of the expenses with her insurance and McLaren offered the best pricing. As she got to know the staff and the process of preparing for surgery, she found the team’s professionalism and compassion to be a great comfort.

“The entire support staff was very kind and easy to work with” said Alayna. “The process seemed quick and it was a very good experience overall.” 

There were some things that took some getting used to, like learning how to stay on track in social situations. At gatherings, she had to stay away from drinking alcohol and eating typical party food for twenty-somethings, like pizza. The two friends she made before surgery in McLaren’s bariatric support group classes gave her someone that understood many of her challenges and could help her in the recovery and maintenance period that followed.

Just weeks after the surgery, Alayna was ready to get moving again. He found an app online called Couch to 5K and gave running a try. In September, less than six months after surgery, she completed the Bay Driathalon, a very unique event that changes the typical triathlon with canoeing instead of swimming. It was a very emotional moment for her, realizing the monumental change in herself. After that, she looked for another lofty goal to set her sights on. What followed was the Tinkerbell Marathon in California followed by marathons in Detroit, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Traverse City, and Arlington, Virginia.

“Something I heard from several of the older adults in the support group class that had bariatric surgery was they wished they had done it sooner because you regain so much energy, self-confidence and happiness. It has completely changed my life for the better and I would recommend this procedure over and over and over again,” Alayna says with confidence.