Baby Steps Make the Impossible Possible
By Elizabeth Skenes Millen
Photography (top) by T.R. Love, T.R. Media World
How do you even begin when the journey ahead seems impossible? Melinda Ables Bush’s answer is “by taking baby steps.”
Melinda has had a rough seven years. It all started when the car she was driving was run off the road, causing her to hydroplane, jump the bridge guardrail and nosedive 35 feet into a muddy ravine. First responders gave her little hope. She had broken every bone in her pelvis multiple times, split her head open down to her skull, and had three compression fractures in her spine, not to mention contusions, cuts, scrapes and bruises. In addition, there were mental aspects to deal with in not allowing a death-defying plunge to overtake her psyche.
Unfortunately, anxiety, panic, claustrophobia, and depression became her nemeses during her healing process.
This may seem inconsequential, but Melinda was 223 pounds at the time of the wreck. She laughed, “Having extra weight and a big booty actually helped me. The fat protected my bones, and all the fractures in my pelvis were non-displaced.”
But those positives would soon turn to negatives. During her long healing process all she could do was sit. “People were so kind to bring us food, but no one brings salads. It’s usually yummy casseroles!” Melinda found comfort in food; it soothed and calmed her like a friend you can share your deepest sorrows with, and she climbed to 337 pounds.
On January 4, 2022, Melinda lost her father. She was at the funeral home with her stepmother making arrangements when her stepmother told her how concerned her father was for her health and how he prayed she would take care of herself. This hit her hard, and she took it to heart.
Her father had every right to be concerned. Now at her peak weight, she had high blood pressure, essentially had to use inhalers, was on two fluid pills daily, she could no longer walk more than about 10 feet and that was with the assistance of a walker. Both of her knees were eaten up with osteoarthritis and had torn meniscus, her eyesight was declining, she had high cholesterol and took a smorgasbord of medications daily.
Melinda had stopped doing almost everything she loved, and everything was a struggle. She could no longer physically go to football games, church, or even the grocery store. She had to quit singing in the church choir. The school where she taught moved her classroom practically next to the front door to minimize the distance. She had not visited her daughter’s apartment in more than two years because she could no longer climb stairs. Taking a shower exhausted her. Though her weight was at an all-time high, she was a shell of herself, her quality of life was all but gone.
Checking into gastric bypass surgery, Melinda was rejected for two reasons: Her insurance wouldn’t cover it, and she was too heavy! The doctor told her she would have to lose weight before she could have weight loss surgery, otherwise it was just too risky in her condition.
Then she thought—Baby Steps. “I am not a cold turkey person. I knew I couldn’t do everything all at once, so I had to find a starting place. I took a baby step and started by eliminating sugary carbonated drinks. I kept picking one thing at a time and working it into (or out of) my life,” Melinda explained.
Her next baby step was to focus on her faith. Melinda is a devout Christian and knew she couldn’t do it without leaning on her faith to get through the process. She found inspiration in books by Barb Raveling, like I Deserve a Donut and Other Lies That Make You Eat, to help her get real and stay on track. Like the Barnes and Noble description states: “This is a hands-on, use-it-in-the-thick-of-the-battle book that will help you renew your mind right when you need it.” That’s exactly what Melinda did!
“I knew I had to do something physical. I took 16 years of dance when I was growing up, and I love to dance. However, I could no longer move my body enough to dance, but I found a chair Zumba class on YouTube and fell in love with it.” All of these baby steps, added little by little, resulted in a 50 pound weight loss between January and May. She was down to 287, but her blood pressure was dangerously high. She headed back to the specialist to see if she was nearing being a candidate for gastric bypass. Her body was cooperating with the weight loss, but losing the internal battle. She needed to get the weight off faster in order to save her organs.
This time not only did the doctor think she was ready, but her insurance would also now cover the procedure. “People think gastric bypass is the easy way out, but you have to be committed to the process. You have to change the way you eat. Through my faith studies I was already addressing the mindset that I didn’t make good choices. I was already working on rewiring my thinking. I started walking at the indoor pool at the hospital wellness center. I would do 10 minutes at first and be exhausted. I bought an abacus and started counting my laps. I didn’t focus on the time in the pool but how many beads I moved on the abacus. I got up to 40 beads; that’s a mile!”
Her surgery took twice as long as the surgeon expected, but Melinda has no regrets. Her stomach is now about the size of an egg, and she is absolutely thrilled with the post-surgical care and support she has received. It truly has taken a village, but most of all it has taken Melinda’s solid commitment to the entire process. She has lost 114 pounds and is continuing her journey with the goal of weighing between 130-140 pounds.
One of her worries was the sagging skin she knew was inevitable. Melinda said, “My doctor told me to look at it as a badge of honor; he said to celebrate the saggy skin because it is a visual of all the positive things happening in my body.” It will be taken care of probably near the year and a half mark, but for now, it is a sign of success!
“I didn’t realize how much of my life I had given away,” she said. “There is no magic pill or no magic video.” However, there are magic moments: On January 28 Melinda donated her walker to Goodwill, and she no longer takes medication for cholesterol or high blood pressure. She and her husband, who has been supportive through the entire process, have bought season tickets to Georgia Tech football for the fall!
But, perhaps the most magic moments have come from her family, who will now hopefully have her around for a long time. Her son, a tough military man who has been on numerous deployments, looked at Melinda with teary eyes and said, “Mama, I just can’t take my eyes off of you. You look so good.”
For Melinda, with tears of happiness, that makes it all worth it.
Melinda's Resource List
• Dr. Bagnato – Palmyra Surgical, 478-471-8484, www. palmyrasurgical.com
• Lydia Wisz, Health Coach - In Health Lifestyle Therapeutics,
• Ally Setliff, ACSM Certified Clinical Physiologist, Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, & Health Coach, and Mrs. North Carolina United World, subscribed to her
“You Tube” channel/Get Fit with Ally. “I did her chair Zumba.”
• Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, Doctor of Physical Therapy and osteoarthritis specialist; subscribe to her “You Tube” channel, Keep the Adventure Alive.
• Book Recommendation: Addressed my addiction/relationship with food and eating: Bible Study Books by Barb Raveling, Taste for Truth, I Deserve a Donut and Other Lies that Make You Eat, and Freedom from Emotional Eating.
• Book Recommendation: Atomic Habits, Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results, by James Clear (Available on Audible, BN or Amazon)
• Book Recommendation: Tiny Habits, The Small Changes That Change Everything
by BJ Fogg, PhD (Available on Audible, BN or Amazon)
• Book Recommendation: Pivot and Pursue It by Pamela Mitchell
(only available on Audible)