CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Back in June of 2020, Hillary Emard and Malorie Major were just acquaintances having worked at the same Corpus Christi elementary school for a time.
But on the same day that month, the same doctor performed the same weight-loss surgery on both women. The two had a chance encounter soon after while recovering in the hospital, and their bond immediately began to grow.
“We were able to text each other and call each other and be like, ‘I’m going through this. Are you going through this?" Emard said.
Before long, they were best friends sharing with each other the details of their exercises and diets. The latter was substantially changed because of the gastric bypass procedure they underwent.
It left them with smaller stomachs and digestive tracts that reduced the amount of food they ate and what their bodies absorbed from it — inducing weight loss.
“Just to see the difference — it’s mind-blowing," Major said. "It’s like we lost basically a person together."
Major says she weighed 276 lbs. the day she went into surgery. The scale read 142 when she weighed herself Monday.
Emard is down to 145 lbs. from 241, and she couldn't be happier about the weight she's lost and the friend she's gained.
"It’s completely changed my life and the way I feel and the way I eat," she said. "And the friendship is amazing."
Their friendship is so strong, Emard served as Major's maid of honor at her wedding in October. She's also found herself lucky in love — getting engaged to be married just two weeks ago.
The doctor who performed their surgeries is pleased about both their weight loss and their bond.
“It’s kind of a nice little perk that gets forgotten about," Dr. Jegan Gopal, a general and bariatric surgeon for Corpus Christi Medical Center said. "As physicians, we see the medical part of it, but we don’t see the social part. It also plays a huge part in all our patients lives."
They're lives that he says can be extended by weight loss contributing to better overall health — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the things that we’ve learned in these past couple of years while dealing with the pandemic is that obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure — they’re all major risk factors to COVID and its complications,” Dr. Gopal said.
Now with fewer health problems because of less weight on their bodies, Emard and Major are focused on the future.
"I haven’t been this size since I was in middle school,” Major said.
“I’ve never been this size ever," Emard said laughing along with Major. "So that’s exciting.”