Couple Loses 375 Pounds Combined with BMI Surgery

Husband and wife Susanna and James Ellexson of Bolingbrook made history at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox when they both underwent weight-loss surgery hours apart on the same day, by the same surgeon, and together have lost more than 375 pounds.

Added to that, they had it in July 2020, as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had calmed down.

Their motivation: to stay healthy for themselves, each other and their family, including two adult children and their “littles,” two adopted children under the age of 10.

Here's their incredible story.

A Reason to Regain Their Health

After years of physical and mental anguish, Susanna and James decided they needed to lose weight. A lot of weight.

At their worst, James, now 49, lugged nearly 400 pounds on his 5-foot-11-inch frame, while Susanna, 50, weighed in only a few pounds less and five inches shorter.

“It was tough getting around,” said Susanna, who works in early childhood education. “I had arthritis in both knees. I had trouble walking to my car in the parking lot.

“We have two grown children and adopted two eight years ago. I couldn’t keep up with them. We realized we wanted to not only take care of ourselves, but be able to take care of our children.”

In a little more than a year, the couple has lost a total of 356 pounds following Bariatric Minimally Invasive (BMI) surgery, also known as gastric bypass, at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox.

They had tried other diets before, having some decent success with Weight Watchers, with Susanna losing 70 pounds and James 45.

“But then we got lazy,” said James, a human resources director. “We stopped counting points and fell off the wagon. After a while, you start to think, ‘Why bother? This is the way it’s always going to be.’”

That included not being able to go on rides at Disney World with the kids because they couldn’t fit on the rides. Or having to ask for a seatbelt extender when traveling on an airplane, James said, maybe just tucking it underneath instead after being too embarrassed to ask.

After Susanna had lost only five pounds on a diet from her doctor, the physician suggested looking into BMI surgery at Silver Cross.

Looking for a Permanent Weight-Loss Solution

Early last year, they attended a program presented by Dr. Christopher Joyce. He and Dr. Brian Lahmann have performed over 10,000 weight loss surgeries at Silver Cross Hospital, which has the only program in Will County that has been named a MBSAQIP accredited center–Comprehensive and Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery.

After listening to the program, the Ellexsons decided two things: they wanted the gastric sleeve surgery–which changes the shape and size of your stomach, reducing the amount of food you eat at one time–seeming less invasive; and they needed to do it together.

“The only time we had any success is when we did it together,” Susanna said.

James, who had looked into gastric bypass surgery a decade earlier, said the program was really good, going through the process before, during and after surgery, step by step.

Prospective bariatric patients have to go through pulmonary, cardiac and psychological tests before being considered for surgery, Dr. Joyce said, to make sure their bodies can handle the procedure and to determine if there are any underlying causes that could undermine the surgery.

Dr. Joyce said they’ve found just surgery alone leads to patients gaining the weight back again. Silver Cross offers a broad range of bariatric surgery care services, including inpatient care, post-operative care, outpatient follow-up care and patient education.

“The surgery is just one facet of a multi-disciplinary approach to changing their lifestyle,” Dr. Joyce said.

The Ellexsons learned they would have the same high-protein, no-carb, low-calorie diet a few weeks before surgery as they would following, to make sure their bodies could prepare for the change.

Susanna and James Before Surgery

Ellexson's Before Surgery
The Ellexsons After Surgery

Ellexson's After Surgery


Ellexson's After Surgery

Susanna said James, who usually handled the cooking when they didn’t eat out, helped ease them into the major change by preparing those meals for them before surgery, and had them waiting for them after.

“This really would not have been successful without James,” she said.

Remembering their past failures, James said he didn’t want them to go through all this for nothing. As an added incentive, they started a blog, “Ellexsons Adventure,” in part, to keep their family and friends up to date on their weight-loss journey.

“The support we received was amazing and helped a lot,” James said. “But it also helped keep us accountable.”

The Couple that Weighs Together, Stays Together

Not only did the Ellexsons decide to jump in to their weight-loss journey together, they were able to schedule their surgeries for the same day–July 13, 2020–as Susanna’s sister, Pat Raymond, came in to watch the kids and help out for a few weeks during their recovery.

“I went in first,” James said. “Susanna came to sit with me for a bit afterward, and then she went in. Dr. Joyce performed both surgeries. We stayed in the hospital one night. Susanna was in a room down the hall from me. She was my first walk after surgery.”

Following surgery, James made sure they followed the diet to the letter, remembering a friend had the same surgery, but gained weight after falling off the wagon.

Even as Dr. Joyce allowed them to incorporate more solid foods, James made sure there was no cheating.

Social people who reveled in the food and drink gatherings with friends and family, the Ellexsons now find foods they can safely enjoy: no sugar, no carbs, high protein.

James now weighs 218 pounds and is pretty happy where he’s at. Susanna says she has a little more work to do at 212, especially in toning up.

They admit to a bit of friendly competitiveness during their journey, which, James said, also helped keep them honest. They weighed themselves every week at the same time on the same day to get a good baseline.

“We weighed in for our final blog posting, and each of us lost exactly 177 pounds,” James said.

They lost enough weight that James was able to buckle his airplane seatbelt on a trip to Florida, with five inches to spare. Susanna is enjoying the little things, like being able to bend down to tie her shoes, and has much more energy.

The Ellexson’s said the care–before, during and after surgery–at Silver Cross was amazing. James said that type of support is a key to success, but in the end, it’s up to the individual.

“We really work hard to find alternatives: keto pasta and taco shells, for example,” James said. “We found low-carb, sugar-free chocolate treats to curb our cravings. That helps keep things more normal and easier to follow.

“Gastric bypass is a great tool. But you really have to change how you think about food. And you have to keep it up.”

Susanna already has passed a few tests.

“We bought a small cake for our child’s graduation,” she said. “No one touched it. We had to throw it out. At one time, I would have been all over that.”

For more information on weight loss surgery at Silver Cross Hospital, visit www.silvercross.org.

Attend an Informational Session

Attend a free informational session on both traditional and laparoscopic surgery on any Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. at BMI Surgery at 1890 Silver Cross Blvd., Suite 260, New Lenox. Register at www.bmisurgery.org.

Success Stories

These are just a few of the nearly 6,000 patients who are living healthier, happier lives after weight loss surgery with BMI Surgery at Silver Cross Hospital.

Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass

Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy

LAP-BAND™ and REALIZE™ Gastric Band Systems

Meet the Experts

Renowned board-certified laparoscopic and bariatric surgeons Brian Lahmann, M.D., and Christopher Joyce, M.D. Their office is located on the Silver Cross Hospital campus at I-355 and Route 6 in New Lenox.

*Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.