"One night after a long, painful day at work, I had to tell my two-year-old son, 'Mama can't get down on the floor to play cars.' That is when I finally decided I had to regain control of my life. I was sick of having pain dictate what I could and couldn't do. I wanted to enjoy my reflection again."
Krystal Ferlicca is no longer burdened by her size. In fact, she spends her free time 15 feet above the ground, suspended in the air.
While balancing in a fabric yoga hammock and achieving a new aerial yoga pose, she feels graceful and strong. "It’s like I’m transforming. I see and feel the beauty of my body. The physicality feels poetic and emotional when I consider where I started," Krystal said.
Her aerial transformation is an extension of a journey she began four years ago. Dr. Walter Sartor performed her gastric sleeve, a non-invasive procedure in which a portion of the stomach—and the hunger hormone responsible for cravings—is removed. The smaller stomach ensures patients consume smaller portions.
She lost 80 pounds within the first year and 20 more in the following months. She has maintained her weight loss—a stark contrast to her lifelong struggle with obesity. "When I was a child, I wore a t-shirt over my swimsuit to cover my fair skin, but soon, the main reason I wore it was to hide my body."
While studying nursing at ULM, her excess weight caused her to avoid extracurricular activities. "I felt like I was too heavy and not very pretty. Whenever I was at my heavier sizes, I always felt self-conscious about the way I looked and angry for letting myself go. I felt like my usual outgoing, charismatic, confident self was buried in my outward appearance, so I didn’t hang out with friends or go to games."
Upon graduation, she became a successful nurse, but her work was physically painful. Already concerned about her health—she has a family history of obesity-related illnesses—she also worried about how her weight affected her son.
"One night after a long, painful day at work, I had to tell my two-year-old son, 'Mama can't get down on the floor to play cars.' I got out of the bathtub later that night, looked in the mirror, and hated what I saw staring back at me. That is when I finally decided I had to regain control of my life. I was sick of having pain dictate what I could and couldn't do. I wanted to enjoy my reflection again."
Krystal’s reflection—a petite, 5’1 frame with curly, vibrant red hair, a wide smile, and brown eyes—mirrors how she feels inside. She now walks into a room with confidence.
In addition to her slimmer figure, almost every other facet of her life has changed. Her relationship with food is no longer "toxic" because it is not a habit or an addiction. Raised to clean her plate, she would often eat mindlessly or simply because someone offered her food. "After surgery, I had to re-configure the way I thought about food. I had to ask myself: ‘Am I even hungry right now? What did I last eat, and when? Is this what I need to eat, or should I pass and eat something else?’ I also learned that using a small plate helps because it appears fuller and helps with portion control." She does not miss soda or snacks because her new habits are ingrained.
Her weight loss also transformed her nursing career. No longer suffering from severe knee pain, she enjoys an abundance of stamina during busy shifts. Her biggest highlight? Caring for gastric sleeve patients.
"If patients have questions, I give them advice or calm their concerns by sharing my experiences with them. I see the patient physically relax and become excited again. I have received comments like, ‘It is so nice to have a nurse take care of me—someone who understands what I am going through.’ I always leave those shifts with a smile because I know their lives are about to change. I was able to be a part of their journey."
Caring for gastric sleeve patients often means working with her surgeon, Dr. Sartor, who is nationally-recognized in bariatric surgery. When he performed her surgery in 2016, he took "excellent care" of her, listening to her concerns, and explaining every detail.
Now, she observes his surgical skills and dedication from a nurse’s perspective. "What makes Dr. Sartor great is that he genuinely cares—and is so diligent—about his patients," she said. "He ensures they receive the best care, both before and after the surgery, including nutrition counseling. "Dietician Marci Parker is always available to answer questions, even now."
Krystal’s personal life has changed too. She and her husband now travel frequently with their son. Her husband built an aerial yoga gym in their backyard, where Krystal teaches her son yoga and discusses healthy food choices.
Maintaining a 100-pound weight loss has freed her, she said.
"I sincerely feel like Dr. Sartor gave me control over my life and my future."