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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 Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn.
1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.

(More History)