An Event to Remember: Bari Ball Celebrates Milestones

| July 18, 2008

by Amanda Nighbert, RD, LD

Amanda Nighbert, RD, LD, is a dietitian at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Saint Joseph East, in Lexington, Kentucky.

The Background
The Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Saint Joseph East in Lexington, Kentucky offers a multidisciplinary bariatric program that cares for the entire patient, taking into account not only their medical needs but also psychological ones. We are dedicated to the entire wellbeing of our patients—before, during, and after their surgeries. As we all know, bariatric surgery is not the solution to a problem, but instead just one of the many tools that help patients change their bodies and lifestyles for the better.

We take our commitment to our patients very seriously and we try to involve our postoperative patients in activities and celebrations as much as we can because we know their accomplishments are not only gratifying, but life-altering. We all want to openly share in their successes and motivate them for more. At our center, we consider this a key component to our comprehensive program.

THE BARI BALL COMES TO LIFE
After opening our program over six years ago, with our staff and patients we began discussing possible events to hold. One idea quickly stood out from the rest. Our patients—whether young or old, male or female—loved the idea of having the opportunity to get dressed up and attend a formal. Before their surgeries, most of our bariatric patients avoided attending these occasions because of their lack of self confidence or because of a medical condition. We would hear from our patients comments like, “I never had anything to wear,” or “I didn’t want people to look at me.” We even heard, “Dancing? Forget it! I couldn’t walk up my stairs at home without taking a break, let alone think about going to a party and dancing.” But over time, with their success came improved self images and more physical activity. We thus decided it was time for us to have a formal ball!

PLANNING A BALL IS LIKE PLANNING A WEDDING
Whether you are planning a ball for bariatric patients or planning a wedding, it takes months to put a successful event together. Finding a facility, hiring the entertainment, and picking a caterer who could customize recipes to this particular patient group’s needs all came into play when planning what became known as the Bari Ball, not to mention mailing the invitations! As with most success in the field of bariatrics, with great teamwork, it all came together and was a huge success for everyone.

OUR MOST RECENT TIME TO SHINE BASH
Since our first Bari Ball, we have come a long way. On February 29, 2008, more than 300 guests gathered together for the Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Saint Joseph East’s 5th Annual Bari Ball. We held the event at the Doubletree Suites in Lexington. Among the guests included 150 postoperative gastric bypass surgery patients from central and eastern Kentucky, along with many staff members, including those from the operating room, nursing, laboratory, registration, and bariatric center—who all played an important role in the continuum of care for the patients. In addition, hospital administrators attended the event to experience firsthand the celebration of the multiple success stories that have come out of our center.

During the evening, a disc jockey blasted tunes on the dance floor, guests sang their hearts out on karaoke, and patients played a game called “How do you like me now?”, which was a new feature this year. Patients wrote down activities they could not participate in before gastric bypass surgery and what they can enjoy now since having the surgery and losing weight. Such activities included riding amusement park rides, traveling, apparel shopping at local stores, and enjoying more independence because of their newfound ability to do simple things. Like many gastric bypass patients, several were not able to tie their own shoes, drive a car, or get around without having to carry an oxygen tank before the surgery.

We were fortunate enough to have one of our patients volunteer to take all the “before” and “after” pictures submitted to the center and create a video that ran throughout the evening on TV monitors. It was a huge hit and everyone now wants to submit more photos for next year. Along with these photos, a new addition to this year’s Bari Ball was the hiring of a professional photographer to take pictures of all the attendees so they would have a keepsake from the event.
We haven’t even mentioned the formal attire yet. Sequenced gowns, cocktail dresses, and tuxedos were popular choices for many. If you have been in bariatrics for any amount of time, you now what a big deal such attire and the ability to wear it is for our patients.
“We’re always amazed at the great lengths our patients go to in order to prepare for this event,” says Karen Hillenmeyer, PA-C, director of the Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Saint Joseph East. “Everyone feels like the belle of the ball and they go all out.”

One of the evening’s best stories is that of postoperative patient Carol who, after attending her first Bari Ball, decided to make it her goal for this year’s event to wear her white, Cinderella-type prom gown that she had worn over 20 years ago. And she did it! The very next year she was the belle of the ball with her knight in shining armor (husband) with her supporting her all the way.

TOP THIS
So now what? We always try to improve the event from year to year by incorporating new ideas. Beyond having a wrap-up meeting, we survey our patients on what they would change based on their experience of attending, and for those who did not attend, we ask what would make them attend. Some ideas we are already considering for next year include adding specific patient spotlights throughout the evening to further highlight our patients’ success. Also, we are considering offering mini seminars at the start of the event with our surgeons, dietitian, exercise physiologist, and nurses. These mini seminars would run about 20 minutes and touch on such topics as the importance of vitamins, getting back on track, improving exercise, and long-term nutritional concerns. By making this change to the Bari Ball, we can start the night off with education and then end with the celebration. It’s a perfect opportunity to mix business with pleasure and reach patients in a relaxed, inviting atmosphere.

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