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News: Centegra weight-loss surgery program includes healing touch

Centegra Hospital-Woodstock nurse Vicki Coleman has a special touch with weight-loss surgery patients. Coleman, who has been a nurse at Centegra for 17 years, is also a certified massage therapist. She visits patients after their surgeries to provide comfort and to help them relax as they heal.”I’ve been providing massages for about two to four bariatric surgery patients a week for the past three years,”  Coleman said. “It’s quiet, one-to-one time that also helps me educate patients about their surgery.” Coleman said the massages used to be a surprise for patients. They may choose from hand, back or foot massage. Now, it’s something patients can look forward to in the days following their surgery.”I enjoy asking people why they decided to have weight-loss surgery,”  Coleman said. “I get as much benefit as the patients do because I love hearing their stories. They want to change their lives.” Coleman also teaches infant massage classes at Centegra. She said massage, when complemented by traditional medicine, can have a significant positive impact on a person’s ability to relax, heal and connect with others.

After many years as a nurse, Coleman began to think more about the healing power of touch when her own mother was extremely ill. Coleman was desperate for a way to calm her mother as her health declined, and she realized the only thing she could do was be near her and use a loving touch to provide comfort.”One of the last things my mom said to me before she died was, “I wish you could make everyone feel this good,’”  Coleman said. “A couple months later I was driving down the road and I saw a sign for massage therapy classes and I felt like it was my calling.” When patients feel uncomfortable with massage or when their illness makes massage physically impossible, Coleman uses comfort touch, which does not involve friction. People who receive comfort touch benefit from light pressure or simple skin-to-skin contact.”Many of my weight-loss surgery patients say they haven’t been able to reach their feet in a long time,”  she said. “I tell them this is only the beginning. As they lose weight and begin to feel more comfortable with themselves, they will feel more confident about getting massages and receiving touch.”

”Massage helps patients by reducing stress hormones in the body and increasing feel-good hormones,” said Dr. Amir Heydari, medical director of the Centegra Weight-Loss Surgery Center and independent physician on staff at Centegra Health System. “People who receive massages can benefit from a slower heart rate, lowered blood pressure and they often handle pain better, too.” ”I see what a huge difference this makes for my patients,”  she said. “It works for people of any age. I’ve massaged newborns and the oldest person I’ve massaged was 103. Touch is profound.” 