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Bariatric nurse loves giving lives back to patients
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck/gkrambeck@qconline.com
Kathy Crooks, supervisor for the Center for Weight Management at Genesis Medical Center East in Davenport.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck/gkrambeck@qconline.com
Kathy Crooks, supervisor for the Center for Weight Management at Genesis Medical Center East in Davenport.
DAVENPORT -- Kathy Crooks knew by the age of 16 she wanted to be a nurse.

Ms. Crooks, now supervisor for the Center for Weight Management at Genesis Medical Center East, Davenport, worked as a nursing assistant at a hospital in Missouri during a summer in high school and discovered she was fascinated by detailed instructions on medical packages.

"It was in the middle of the night and I was in the supply room, reading a Foley catheter package, and it hit me - I think this is so interesting," she said. "I was a junior in high school, and my mother and I went into school and changed all of my courses so I could qualify for enrollment into nursing school."

After graduation, Ms. Crooks said her mother, also a nurse, encouraged her to apply to the Blessing Hospital School of Nursing in Quincy, which she said is known for its challenging curriculum.

"My mother, being a nurse, picked the hardest one out of the lot, and they let me in. My mom was very proud. I knew it was going to be hard."

After college, Ms. Crooks worked as a floor nurse for three years in Columbia, Mo., before becoming an operating room nurse.

"And there bloomed my true love for nursing," she said. "You either love the operating room or you don't. I like being very busy, moving very fast and having to think on your feet. I liked the whole environment of it."

A job transfer for her husband brought them to the Quad-Cities in 1977, and she continued to work as an operating room nurse here until 2005.

Ms. Crooks said shed volunteered to fill in for a bariatric nurse at the Center for Weight Management and stumbled into the next step of her nursing career.

After hearing a presentation by the person running the clinic, she said she was hooked. "Coming here from the operating room was like going from apples to potatoes."

The center works with people trying to lose weight or having bariatric surgery, aiding with everything from insurance forms and counseling to medical and emotional support after surgery.

Ms. Crooks said many patients who have bariatric surgery are diabetic because of obesity. Two-thirds are cured of diabetes as a result of the surgery, she said.

"We have people who are on multiple diabetic medications who leave the hospital without needing any medication. We had one guy who was considering a total hip replacement. After bariatric surgery, the weight came off and he didn't need the hip replacement after that."

Ms. Crooks said about 90 percent of patients with sleep apnea also are cured as weight comes off after surgery.

"The pleasure of helping people change their lives for the better is the best thing you could ever do. I watch people feel better, get rid of illnesses, I see smiles on their faces, their eyes are glowing, and they take up new hobbies. I was watching the Bix, and I had a couple people shout at me who were running the race (who had undergone surgery)."

Ms. Crooks said Genesis does three to four bariatric surgeries a week, but her office serves non-surgical patients as well.

For those who qualify to have surgery, Ms. Crooks helps with the insurance and paperwork.

She said she thinks the insurance process for bariatric surgery is unfair. "If you need a gallbladder out, you get it out. If you have a brain that tells you to eat more than others, the insurance requirements should be loosened up more.

"You have more stimulus to your brain telling you to eat more than the average bear. You operate on the stomach to affect the brain. By reducing the size of the stomach, it sends a signal to the brain that you're full and satisfied."

Ms. Crooks said she works with a group mistreated more than any other and programs such as "My 600-lb Life" on TLC do a disservice to obese people, who endure rude comments, insults, unsolicited advice and stares.

She said she encourages patients to stick with the program.

"I tell them, 'If I could show you a videotape of yourself six months from now, you'd have no problem going through with the surgery.' I can see the whole picture. I can see where they're going and how they'll end up."

Two weeks after surgery, Ms. Crooks said the average weight loss is 20 to 25 pounds, and at three months, as much as 50 to 60 pounds. Within a year, most patients have lost 70 percent of their excess weight.

Ms. Crooks said obese people have a 30 percent greater chance of dying early. In addition to diabetes and sleep apnea, complications from obesity include high blood pressure and cholesterol, asthma, osteoarthritis, heart disease, migraines, fatigue, depression and anxiety.

She said extending lives is the best part of her job, but so is hearing how weight loss changes lives, from being able to tie their own shoes and playing on the floor with their kids to traveling, getting a better job and running races.

"This job is just fun because you give people their lives back. It is why I love my job. It makes everything else pale in comparison.

"I think every journey I took has prepared me to be here, because this is where I belong. There are days I think, I can't believe I get to do this for a living. It is wonderful!"

Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.

(More History)