CHESHIRE, Conn. (WTNH) — Susan Valez finds happiness in spending time with her large family.

The 61-year-old from Waterbury loves watching her 19 grandchildren at their sporting events. But, as she gradually gained weight over the years, being in public took an emotional toll.

“It was embarrassing when you went to watch them that you’re sitting there cheering them on and your arms are,” Valez said, referring to when she was 400 pounds.

She also worried about the fear of dying early.

“I wasn’t going to make it,” Valez said. “The weight was so bad, and I got really lucky I got the two best doctors.”

Over the years, she watched her siblings and other family members drop pounds with help from Trinity Health of New England’s Weight Loss Institute. She decided to follow their lead.

“Then one led to another one in her family and then next thing we’ll I want to try that too, well how is she losing weight?” said John Testa, who is one of Valez’s weight loss doctors.

Valez finally decided to undergo a gastric bypass revision with her new Trinity Health doctors. This time, it worked.

The weight gradually came off as she adapted her lifestyle to be healthier. At 200 pounds, she’s now half her starting weight. Her family members have all lost a total of 1,000 pounds.

Trinity Health bariatric surgeon Shady Macaron performed Valez’s weight loss procedure. He performs different types of weight loss surgeries.

He said that drugs and surgery give patients a number of options to lose weight, but doctors first have to weigh all of a patient’s issues.

Injectable drugs such as Wegovy and Ozempic, first approved to treat diabetes, are now an effective weight loss tool, but they are not covered by insurance unless a person has a comorbidity such as diabetes. They are also a big commitment.

“Some patients are not comfortable with the fact that they’re going to stop the medication at one point, and they might gain the weight back, and that’s when we direct them toward the surgery,” Macaron said.