School Principal Sheds 170 lbs. with Cherokee Nation’s HELP

ohn Speir sits with his wife, Misty, in a 2012 photo. He weighed nearly 400 pounds and was considered “extremely obese.”

ohn Speir sits with his wife, Misty, in a 2012 photo. He weighed nearly 400 pounds and was considered “extremely obese.”

Healthy Eating for Life Program sees 1,500 patients in 2014

SALLISAW, OKLAHOMA — After losing 170 pounds, Roland Junior High School Principal John Speir no longer gets winded or feels pain patrolling the school hallways.

The 43-year-old found the Cherokee Nation’s Healthy Eating for Life Program (HELP) at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah and went from 398 pounds to a healthier 228 pounds.

“Before any weight loss, I was a really big guy,” said Speir, a Cherokee citizen from Sallisaw. “If I did a lot of strenuous work, or walked a long way, my knees and back hurt and I felt pain down my legs. That stuff doesn’t happen now.”

In the summer of 2013, Speir went to his doctor at Redbird Smith Health Center, who referred him to HELP at W.W. Hastings Hospital.

The Cherokee Nation’s HELP clinic assisted about 1,500 patients in 2014. It is one of the fastest growing bariatric clinics in the area. A team of nurses, surgeon, psychologist and counselor certified in the medical study of obesity, provide patients with nutrition education, weight loss support groups and possibly bariatric surgery.

“I wanted to make sure I was going to be around to see my girls graduate high school and college, and to one day walk them down the aisle,” said Speir, a father of two. “I made my mind up right then that I had to do something different. I had to change.”
John Speir works out at Sallisaw Family Fitness several days a week to help maintain his weight loss of 170 pounds.

John Speir works out at Sallisaw Family Fitness several days a week to help maintain his weight loss of 170 pounds.

The program taught him to cut out fast food and soda and keep a food journal. He also started exercising. In one year, Speir lost 100 pounds and was deemed ready for Lap-Band surgery in the summer of 2014.

“My surgeon, Dr. Hope Baluh, was very thorough and stringent on her requirements for surgery,” he said. “In the months that I went to the HELP clinic before surgery, they taught me how to think differently about so many things, which has helped me continue to lose weight after my surgery. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Speir lost another 70 pounds after surgery and he’s looking forward to being more active this summer with his daughters’ sports teams.

“We really want our HELP clinic to be different in the way that people aren’t just left hanging in the breeze after being given some information,” said Certified Bariatric Nurse Maggie Parker, who works at W.W. Hastings Hospital. “The goal is to teach our participants how to have a healthy life, and then for them to teach their children to keep their families healthy.”

Patients must have a referral submitted by a primary care provider from a tribal facility. Two surgical procedures are offered through the clinic. Lap-Band is an adjustable device around the stomach and laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy is when a large portion of the stomach is removed to decrease food intake. Patients must meet strict guidelines to qualify for bariatric surgery.

“Dr. Baluh and the HELP clinic are truly changing lives for the better every day at W. W. Hastings Hospital, and we believe that a personal success story like Mr. Speir’s helps more of our Cherokee Nation citizens realize the changes they can make to improve their own health,” said Brian Hail, CEO of W.W. Hastings Hospital.

Those interested in learning more should consult with their primary care provider to determine if the HELP clinic could be an option and call 918-458-3100 ext. 3777.

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