Read about the success stories of Tamarac
Please read the success stories below and see how Tamarac has changed their lives.
Please read the success stories below and see how Tamarac has changed their lives.
In 1984, the U.S. Army medically evacuated me from Landstuhl, Germany, to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to undergo surgery following a detached retina injury. The surgeons at Walter Reed were able to save one of my eyes. While being treated at Walter Reed, nephrologists advised me that my kidneys were damaged and would eventually fail. My kidney damage and some other ailments have been directly linked to my exposure to defoliant agents during my multiple tours in the Vietnam conflict. Unfortunately, kidney disease is not my only health issue. Nearly two decades after my stay at Walter Reed, doctors diagnosed me with diabetes. I began taking insulin. With the insulin, my weight increased. On Mother’s Day 2004, I suffered a heart attack. Surgeons created four bypasses to my compromised cardiac arteries. That Mother’s Day was also the last day I smoked. In addition to no longer smoking, I began working out at the Gerber Products Wellness Center and then at Tamarac, the Center for Health and Well-Being.
My Tamarac workouts allowed me to slowly reduce my insulin dosage, even though the insulin continued to cause weight gain. The exercise allowed me to eliminate one of my blood pressure pills. Not everything was positive, though, and my energy level decreased drastically as my kidney function dropped below 20 percent. In October 2009, weighing 265 pounds, I began dialysis. Dialysis is not a pleasant experience, so I added to my goals: a kidney transplant. After a month of dialysis, my energy began increasing on my non-dialysis days. Eventually, I began to feel better even during the evenings of dialysis days. As my energy increased, the intensity and duration of my workouts increased. At the end of my first year of dialysis, I weighed just over 200 pounds. I have stopped using insulin with a recent A1C result of 5.6. My remaining blood pressure medicine dose has been decreased by 90 percent.
In February 2010, my nephrologists recommended me for the kidney transplant list. Through the many tests to prove my fitness for the transplant, doctors discovered developing cancer cells in my prostate. Normally, a man my age would require no treatment for this type of cancer, but the untreated cancer made me ineligible to be placed on the transplant list. In October, surgeons removed my prostate. My recovery has been successful due in part to my fitness level. Though I may not lift over 10 pounds due to surgery, I have already returned to Tamarac to walk. Tests show me to be cancer-free as I anticipate being added to the transplant list soon.
Well-being is not just a state characterized by health or fitness but also by happiness. The Tamarac staff provided a friendly, encouraging environment. Through the last several years, their support has buoyed my emotions and re-centered my focus many times, allowing me to overcome several obstacles. In this spirit, I have tried to pay it forward by encouraging those around me to seek and attain well-being verbally and also, hopefully, by example. With my goals to control my blood sugar and strengthen my heart in hand, I continue to move forward toward my transplant.
Between 1995 and 2000 I began having strange symptoms including headaches, stomach aches, TMJ, insomnia, asthma, aches and pains, frequent infections and general fatigue. By mid-2001 I had experienced constant, sharp back pain for 18 months. My personality and lifestyle changed as a result, and I thought I would never again be my old self. Then I went to a specialist who diagnosed me with fibromyalgia and a food allergy to corn. I went through 18 months of very difficult dietary restrictions and I slowly regained my health. Omitting corn products from my diet helped me dramatically, and eventually my fibromyalgia symptoms became only an occasional inconvenience instead of a life-limiting condition.
The gluten-free, corn-free, dairy-free, soy-free diet left me with deprivation syndrome. I routinely had to say no to food I really wanted. My solution was to over-eat on safe (corn-free) foods. I slowly gained weight until I was 285 pounds. There were activities I wanted to do but couldn’t since I had no energy due to my lack of physical fitness. These things fed into depression, and the downward spiral continued. I knew of several people who Tamarac had helped lose weight, and I finally came to my tipping point and knew I had to do something!
So on October 15, 2009, I joined “New You.” It was important to me to lose weight safely so I was glad to have Kathy, a dietitian, teaching the class and ensuring I got all the vitamins and nutrients I needed. I slowly started an exercise routine.
I disliked working out but accepted that it was what I needed to do. Instead of backing down from challenges and listening to negative self-talk, I started to work through the tough days and tried a more positive thought process. Patience and persistence became my keywords. The structure of counting calories and being on a calorie budget worked really well for me, and I lost 105 lbs. in nine months and have been maintaining that for four months.
Today, I am happier and healthier and I can once again do the things I used to enjoy, such as hiking, canoeing and dancing. It is nice to look better, but what really matters is that I have gained confidence, broadened my comfort zone and feel like smiling a lot more often. Oh yeah, I can also go biking, snow shoeing, run a little, play volleyball, strike a mean yoga pose and look forward to the future!
I am so thankful to God for helping me through all of this and for providing the Fremont area with such wonderful resources! I am glad that I found a support system and accountability network at Tamarac, because that is what made all the difference for me! I am not sure where my wellness journey is going next, but I hope to find a nice winding hiking trail up a wooded mountain! Hope to see you at Tamarac soon!
Their journey to better health and a better life started in June 2009 when Erica saw a picture of herself and said out loud, “Why didn’t anyone tell me I’m that fat?” At that moment she knew that something needed to change. Ralph was using a BiPAP machine to sleep and neither of them could keep up with their friends who lived an active lifestyle. They spent their lives sitting in front of the TV, planning the next meal out.
In July 2009 they started Weight Watchers Online. This program worked for a while. They used the online version thinking that they didn’t need the support system of groups and that they would save a lot of money each month by being each other’s support. What they didn’t know was this meant no one was teaching them how they should be eating. Ultimately they gained back any weight lost, plus 10 to 20 pounds.
In March 2010, Erica realized her pants no longer fit and she needed to buy one size up. She told Ralph that they needed to change something. He mentioned that his doctor had recently suggested Tamarac’s New You program. Two months later, they went to the informational meeting and signed up that night. They were scared and skeptical when the program started in June 2010. Ruth Barkel was their instructor, and their group turned out to be amazing and supportive, all sharing successes and struggles together.
Ralph and Erica joined Tamarac shortly after starting New You. They met with Ruth who showed them how to use the equipment and find out the best program for each of them. Now, they regularly attend aquatic classes with Skye and Kate, group classes with Jeremy, and spinning classes with Todd, Nelson and Spike.
“Losing weight and becoming more active has opened up a whole new world to us. We now plan our vacations around what we can do and not what we can eat. In the last couple of months, we have walked the Mackinaw Bridge, hiked the Primitive Trail between the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls twice and biked around Mackinac Island for an entire weekend.”
Ralph and Erica finished the 20-week foundation course on October 12, 2010. Erica lost 59.5 pounds and dropped to a size 10, and Ralph lost 95.8 pounds, was wearing a size 34 pant and hasn’t needed his BiPAP machine in almost two months.
“Because of Tamarac and the New You program, we are doing things we never thought we would. We look like we never thought we could, and we have made friends that will last a lifetime.”
I have been a member of Tamarac since 2008. I am the mother of three children. Before and after the birth of my daughter in October 2007, I experienced postpartum depression. I was always crying and felt so sad that my doctor wanted to put me on medication. I told her I would try to get over it myself – so I did.
Six months after I joined Tamarac, I started exercising almost every day to keep myself healthy. I have always been very skinny but not in shape, so I started lifting free weights and using the machines. I took some of the classes that Tamarac offered like FAST, Zumba, Spinning and Body Pump. A few months later my depression was gone. Exercising at Tamarac helped me get over it.
My motivations are my family, my kids and my friends. With my example of working out at the gym and being active, I am teaching them how important it is to exercise to be healthy. My goal is to become a bodybuilder. Lifting weights is one of my favorite workouts. I found that Body Pump is a great class for me because it helps me to build muscle. FAST is a good combination of cardio and weight lifting. It helps me to learn different kinds of exercises and shows me the proper way to do it. I love to dance in Zumba class. It is a good workout to burn calories and shape up my body and has taught me to dance. The thing I enjoy most about the classes is the support I receive from everyone in the group.
It is an honor for me to be an inspiration to other people. I would like to continue to do better to help inspire more people. I’m thankful to my husband and my kids as they are being very patient with me. I am grateful to Tamarac and the Fremont Area Community Foundation for all their help and support. I couldn’t have done it without them. Thank you very much.
I felt my mother deserved this honor for her hard work, dedication and constant commitment to her health.
I can remember as a young child my mom’s commitment to her health. Back in the 1980s, Fremont did not have a facility like we have today, yet she still carved out some time for herself to work out through aerobics classes or other fitness activities. Now that I am a working mother I understand the need to have some time to sweat and get away from the family for an hour or two, and I am proud of her for showing me that that was a good thing to do.
When mom joined Tamarac and was there the first day it was open I think other people got the privilege of getting to know her a little better. She has always been the first one to try a new class and stand in the front. Mom can be seen there in the morning or at night. There is not a class or activity she won’t try.
In the late summer of 2008 my mom decided that she wanted to lose some weight and really keep it off. I also struggle with weight loss and understand her feelings. There was a new program called New You we heard about, and mom decided to join. My mother finished her 20-week program with incredible results. Along with the dietary guidelines and her continued effort of exercise she shed an amazing amount of weight. I can’t tell you how many times people wanted to know what she did, what the secret was. To this day she is a wonderful example that if you do the program and put in the time for exercise, you too can be successful at reaching your weight loss and fitness goals. She has maintained her new healthy weight and continues to be a strong influence on people when they are interested in the New You program.
My mother is a part of Tamarac. She is a fixture. She knows everyone now. Last week when I attended some morning classes she was sick and was not present. I had more people ask me where Holly was before even saying hello to me! I laugh at that because it shows to me how important my mom is to other people. She is inspirational, funny, dedicated and true. She is loved by so many and has made a number of friends at Tamarac.
What an absolute joy it has been to share my mother’s success with her. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be her daughter and to be her friend. Sincerely, Lola Harmon-Ramsey
My wellness journey began for me in the summer of 1976. I was just three years old. I was diagnosed with two cancerous brain tumors and given less than a 10% chance of survival. I spent a long time relearning to swallow, roll, walk and talk. I heard many people in the medical field say I may never learn but they didn’t know the strength of my spirit!
In 1994, I was having many seizures a day, and one day I fell hit my head. I woke up with tubes down my throat; I was in intensive care. I spent a great deal of time again in Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Center. I was back to learning to swallow, walk and talk— all of the basics. Again, I heard many doctors say they were not sure if this time I would be able to overcome these obstacles. I have to admit I was much more tired this time around. Many times daily I would have to pick myself up and try so hard to continue down that path. As much as I tried, my body was beginning to not listen to my spirit.
In 1998, at the age of 26, I found this incredible oasis in the mountains at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. There I had a procedure done called a hemispherectomy. This procedure literally took away the part of my brain that was creating the seizures. The tests leading up to this, as well as the surgery, certainly took more of my strength, but again, not my spirit.
As time passed my journey became very hard. My spirit was still there, but I so much needed some extra help. I heard about a wonderful place called Tamarac. It was just what I needed. When I started at Tamarac, my body was not strong; my spirit had lost some of the glow.
I am now taking classes that keep my mind away from the pain and allow my body and spirit to grow. The instructors of the classes teach me to properly work with my body and the members in the class provide me with the fun and social life I so much need. I have the greatest personal trainer who is always there and never gives up on me, challenging my body to keep it strong, as well as making me feel proud of what I can accomplish. I am taking advantage of the wonderful physical therapists who are helping me come back from a small detour on my journey. The fitness guides and all of the staff are so special. They impact my life daily as well as so many other people.
I now stand on the ledge of the mountain I have been climbing and can see a forest of Tamarack trees: tall, strong and beautiful, representing everyone that make up the family of Tamarac the Center for Health and Well-Being. —
Chad passed away in 2014. Chad’s story was written by his mother, Jackie Hickman.
My story is more like a health journey on which I am still traveling. I have always been heavy but, about a year and a half ago, I was at a point that I seriously had to look at the direction I was traveling and knew I had to change my health direction. I weighed 338 pounds and had been put on several medications to help control my health. I knew the path I was on was not going in the direction I wanted and would not take me to the places I wanted to be in 10 to 20 years. I wanted to be here for my family down the road.
I joined Tamarac thinking by making that decision I would be able to make a difference. To this point in my life, I thought I had eaten well and had done well with my health, but I had to look at where I was and accept reality. I had made the decision but felt that I was not making progress. A turning point was when I was at Bill’s Shop and Save and ran into a friend I had not seen in several months. I had known her for the last 20 years but didn’t recognize her at first, which was embarrassing. Her name is Stephanie Busman, and after a 20-minute conversation in front of the bread, I learned she had completed the New You program at Tamarac. It had changed her life! She explained it was more than just a decision, it was a commitment to better health and was a gift of health that she was giving herself. This made sense to me, but I told her I was not sure if I could do it and she assured me by saying, “I know you can do it.” This is what pushed me over the edge and spurred me to go to an information session and join the 20-week New You foundation class. This began another of many chapters.
I, like so many other people in the New You program, had tried every diet and gimmicky thing in the book with limited success. I had looked into surgery several years ago, but I knew that education and lifestyle had to be a part of the solution. This is Tamarac’s motto: health and well-being. I started New You on February 23, 2009, and began to learn how I was going to change direction. I was going to give this an honest try. I stuck with it and had great results from the beginning. I had an incredible amount of support from others in the class and from my instructor, Amanda Irwin. Amanda is a health educator and certified personal trainer at Tamarac and has taught me the importance of exercise in a healthy lifestyle. One of my goals was to eventually start running. I remember the day Amanda said to me, “I know you can do it.” I had someone tell me this before and was starting to believe it. Thanks, Amanda!
I lost 101.2 pounds in the 20-week New You foundation class, started running, started exercise classes at Tamarac, stopped taking all medications, finished several 5K races this summer, continued to lose weight and can now look back at several great moments over the past several months and say, “What a great ride.” One of those moments was at my first race in Hesperia on the 4th of July when Bob Springstead finished the race, doubled back and ran with me the last half mile. He helped me relax and breathe, and said, “I know you can do it.” I am only one of several Bob has helped along their journey. Thanks, Bob!
My story is still being written. I still have a lot to learn and I am working toward a healthier lifestyle. I look back and see what an incredible impact this whole experience has had on me and my family. My hope is that YOU are headed in the right direction in life and in health. I am here to say, “I know you can do it!”
Mike Converse is committed to his daily workout just like an elite athlete. However, Mike has Lewy body disease, a neurological condition with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. His daily routine at Tamarac provides much-needed exercise for his body and gives him purpose.
“There are medications for my disease, but exercise is an important part of my treatment to keep my muscles flexible and strong,” Mike explained. “When I miss a couple of days, I can feel it. Exercise makes a difference for my body and my mind.” In addition to working with a personal trainer each day, Mike spends time at Tamarac welcoming new members and encouraging others. He has become a self-appointed Tamarac ambassador.
“I always wanted to be a physical therapist, so it is ironic that this has become such a big part of my life,” Mike said. “I really enjoy watching others make progress, whether they are recovering from an injury or surgery, or simply improving their health. I want people to feel as good about coming here as I do.”
Mike was recognized as the Citizen of the Year in 2011, a distinction Tamarac employees bestow on members who have had an amazing transformation. Mike was selected because of the remarkable recovery he made after a serious fall last winter. His positive attitude and commitment to his health have made him a role model for other Tamarac members.
—Mike passed away in 2014
I had a stroke 10 years ago that stripped me of my speech and language along with having some right-sided weakness. I could not say simple things like “yes” and “no.” The therapy at that time helped me, but I was still frustrated because I could not talk well. Because of it, I spent the past 10 years isolated at home watching TV and quilting; I only went out for errands or to attend church.
Then earlier this year, I received a notice that Stroke Support Group meetings were going to be held at Tamarac, facilitated by Julie, the speech therapy assistant I had after my stroke. This is when my journey as a stroke survivor, rather than a stroke victim, began. At the first meeting, I voiced my concern about my speech and language, and the swelling in my right leg. Right away Julie got the ball rolling. I was able to receive several speech and physical therapy sessions. I had speech therapy with Jennifer. She helped me talk better and has given me amazing confidence to talk with others. When I first talked to Rob, the physical therapist, about the swelling in my right leg, along with right arm weakness and loss of balance (I did not know that all of these were results of the stroke from 10 years ago), he assured me that he could fix me. At first, I thought Rob and Edmond were trying to kill me, therapy was so intense. Although with their continuous encouragement, I worked through it and survived. My leg no longer swells, I am strong and confident.
In July of this year, I decided to become a member of Tamarac, so I met with Jackie and she told me all about Tamarac. Since joining, I cannot say enough about the staff and all they have done for me. They sure know their stuff! I now go several times a week, and I even joined a Tai Chi class that has helped me with my posture and balance and learning slow, controlled movements.
Since becoming involved in Tamarac and rehab, I’ve gained tremendous confidence to socialize with people and have overcome my fears—it’s great! Since my journey as a survivor began, I socialize, talk better, decreased my blood sugar levels by over 150 points (I can now give blood!), gained new strength emotionally, mentally and physically, and lifted 4 million pounds with the FitLinxx system. I have also gained new friends and a wonderful meeting place. I now have a healthier, stronger, confident inner self and a stronger outer physical self. My journey continues to get better! Do not give up! Do not be a victim, be a survivor! Trust in God.
Have you been here at some time in your life?
After trying to lose weight through “every diet known to mankind,” Chris Lehman, Spectrum Health Gerber Home Care nurse, finally realized she just couldn’t do it by herself. She needed encouragement and support. In 2009, working out at a fitness center was about the last thing she wanted to do. At the time, Chris did not realize that this was the year she’d start to turn her life around, forever.
It began with surgery on her left foot and ankle to repair the damage caused by the wear and tear of her flat feet and the extra pressure created by her obesity. Having to remain off the reconstructed foot and ankle for two months meant a significant lack of physical activity. Chris gained even more weight, eventually tipping the scales at 286 pounds. Her blood pressure and cholesterol numbers climbed toward chronic disease levels, such as those for diabetes, heart disease, cancer or other serious conditions.
Rather than start a drug regimen to combat these diseases, Chris wanted to give diet and exercise one last try. After surgery and three long months in a cast and walking boot, she began physical therapy at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial’s Tamarac, The Center for Health and Well-Being. At times during her rehab, Chris would gaze at the fitness center floor and watch people “just like her” working out. Not everyone was young, thin and running laps around the track.
After trying out the equipment and receiving her “bridge” pass to Tamarac, Chris joined and worked with one of the fitness specialists to begin her journey toward wellness. She also joined Weight Watchers to help her with her eating habits.
“I try to take advantage of everything Tamarac has to offer,” Chris stated recently. She takes classes, works out in the pool and with a personal trainer at times, and loves the spinning class and walking the track with the new friends she has made at Tamarac.
“Wow,” she said, “exercise and diet together really does work! My wellness journey is getting results. I’ve lowered my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and have lost over 80 pounds. I have so much encouragement from this welcoming place.”
Chris has certainly taken advantage of the greater possibilities provided her at Tamarac. She’s well on her journey to a new life of healthy activities and an inspiration to those looking to improve their overall health.
I joined Tamarac in 2011 for the 30-day challenge and loved it so much I continued. This is the second time I have been nominated for Citizen of the Year. The first time, I was at the beginning of my journey and, although I did not win, it encouraged me to keep working.
I have always been overweight. At my heaviest I was 315 pounds. When I started at Tamarac I could only walk 20 minutes on a treadmill. I started gradually to add more time. Then I started to slowly work on other machines and participate in the classes offered. I love Zumba.
Fast forward two years and I am further ahead than I could have imagined. I now weigh 162 pounds and I’m still losing. I have more energy than I thought possible. In the last two years, I have run my first 5K, participated in Survival of the Fittest, hiked in the Grand Canyon and had surgery to remove excess skin. This has not been an easy journey, but it is worth every sore muscle and I have had a lot of fun along the way.
There are a lot of people who have helped and inspired me. To all of the members of Tamarac whose faces I see on a daily basis, I may not know all of your names, but I would miss you if you were not there. Thank you to Tracey Crowley, Amanda Irwin, Kelsy Borgman, Jeremy Stariha, Dylan Graves, Kris Saum, Dyan Zapletal, Justin Hensley, Deb Anderson, Nelson Griffin and Gretchen Bush for encouraging.
Courtney Lensky, thank you for pushing me to do my best six days a week and giving up jaw busters for me. Lastly, thanks to Missie and Patti, who started day one with me. The two of you helped me through every challenge and celebrated every accomplishment. Thank you will never be enough.