Patient Stories

REX Bariatric Specialists Quick Recipes

Spice up your meal variety with these healthy, quick recipes recommended by REX Bariatric Specialists!

Ham, Egg, and Broccoli Casserole


  • 12 eggs
  • 16oz low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups 2% Italian cheese blend
  • 2 cups low sodium chopped sliced ham
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 10oz chopped frozen broccoli
  • pinch of salt and pepper


  • Beat eggs in a large bowl until blended
  • Add remaining ingredients into bowl and mix until combined well
  • Spray 13×9 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray
  • Pour mix into baking dish
  • Bake at 350°F for 50- 60 minutes

Oatmeal Pancakes


  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup rolled oats, dry
  • 2 tsp Stevia (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • fruit (raspberries, blueberries)


  • Combine ingredients into a bowl and blend
  • Spray skillet with olive oil cooking spray
  • Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto medium-low heat skillet
  • Flip batter when it begins to bubble
  • Repeat with rest of batter
  • Top finished pancakes with fruit

Serving size: 4 pancakes

Moroccan Chicken Thighs (slow cooker meal)


  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  •  1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of excess fat)
  • pinch of pepper
  • Greek yogurt (for garnish)


  • Blend cilantro through lemon juice in a food processor or blender
  • Add chicken thighs to bottom of slow cooker pot
  • Season with pepper and cover chicken with paste from food processor
  • Cook on low for 3-4 hours
  • Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt

Hummus and Crackers


  • Crackers:
    • 1/2 cup chia seeds
    •  1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds (unsalted)
    • 1/2 cup pepitas
    • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
    • 1 clove of grated garlic
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 cup water
  • Hummus:
    • 15oz canned chick peas (drained)
    • 15oz canned chick peas (with liquid)
    • 1/4 cup tahini sauce
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 3 tbsp lemon juice
    • 2 medium garlic cloves (peeled)
    • 1/4 tsp cumin
    • dash of cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 cup kalamata olives (rinsed, pitted and chopped)


  • Combine all cracker ingredients in a bowl and stir mixture until combined
  • Let sit for 2 minutes so water absorbs
  • Spread mixture onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  • Bake at 300°F for 35 minutes
  • Remove from oven and cut sheet into squares with pizza cutter
  • Flip squares and bake again at 300°F for 25- 35 minutes
  • While crackers are baking, combine all hummus ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth
  • Pour into a bowl and refrigerate while crackers finish baking (optional)
  • Garnish with additional olives (optional)

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Getting to Know PAD

Lori Adkins_croppedLori Adkins graduated in 1998 with a BA in Speech Communications from UNC Chapel Hill. After working in the pharmaceutical industry, she returned to school and received an associate in Science in Nursing Degree from  Wake Technical Community College in May 2013.  She is currently pursuing a BSN  from UNC Wilmington.
Over the past three years, Lori has worked with multiple cardiac populations including CHF, CABG, PCI and Arrhythmia  patients.  She enjoys helping her patients understand Cardiac Risk factors. Lori is married and the proud mother of  two beautiful children.

About eight million Americans have Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), and many people mistake the symptoms for something else. Pain, cramping, and tiredness of the leg, and/or hip muscles that increases with activity and decreases with rest are all signs of PAD. PAD often goes undiagnosed and puts patients at greater risk for heart attack. If left untreated, it can also lead to gangrene and amputation.  If the blockage occurs in a carotid artery, it can cause a stroke.  Managing PAD begins with knowledge. REX Vascular Specialists encourages you to learn all you can about PAD and other cardiovascular disease. Knowing your risk factors and living an active heart-healthy lifestyle may ward off this debilitating disease.

What is PAD?

clogged arteryPeripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is caused by fatty build-up, also known as atherosclerosis, in the inner walls of the arteries.  This build-up causes a blockage and affects normal blood flow.

Where does PAD occur?

Common sites for PAD are the iliac artery (in the lower torso), the femoral artery (in the groin), the popliteal artery (at the knee) and the tibial arteries (at the shin and calf). PAD can also occur in arteries of the kidney and other organs.

What are the symptoms of PAD?

Common symptoms of the early stages of PAD may include cramping, fatigue, heaviness and pain or discomfort in the legs and buttocks during walking or activity. The pain and discomfort usually goes away when activity stops. This is known as “intermittent claudication.”

How is PAD diagnosed?

PAD diagnosis begins with a medical history and physical exam. REX Vascular Specialists offer a comprehensive package of screenings along with a one-on-one results consultation. The comprehensive screening includes blood pressure, body mass index, full cholesterol panel, and ankle brachial indexes.  The ankle-brachial index (ABI) result is used to predict the severity of peripheral arterial disease (PAD).This test is done to screen for peripheral arterial disease of the legs. It is also used to see how well a treatment is working (medical treatment, an exercise program, angioplasty, or surgery).The ABI result can help diagnose peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Why get screened for PAD?

PAD can affect vital arteries that lead to the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs and feet. If PAD is not treated, it can lead to gangrene and amputation of limbs. If the blockage occurs in the carotid artery, it can lead to a stroke. Most patients with PAD have a higher risk of death from heart attack and stroke.

To find out if you are at risk for PAD, please take our free online health risk assessment. To learn more visit

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Making the Gym Part of Your Lifestyle

Post by Rodney Jenkins, a Group Exercise Instructor at the REX Wellness Center of Garner. He is also a business teacher, a soccer coach and an athletic trainer with the Wake County Public School system.

After one of my recent water classes in Garner, I had an opportunity to speak to some of our members about our July 10 Garner Sprint Triathlon. Ultimately, the question of training for a triathlon came up and after a short discussion about the training program that many of our participants used, I made the statement that there is a difference between simply working out and training. They asked me, ”what do you mean?”  My response was pretty simple. Working out does require a commitment but it is a commitment that can easily be broken. But training has purpose and requires a commitment that cannot easily be broken.

For various reasons, people walk away from working out at the gym every single day with seemingly no consequences. Some return while others do not.  However, if you’ve ever taken that leap of faith and trained for an event, you know what it feels like to find purpose in the workout. It’s called Race day. Race day is the ultimate reward where you prove to yourself that all of the training was worth the time and effort.  Without race day, it is easy to fall into the Doldrums. (aka, inactivity which I blogged about back in 2012).

Let’s use the Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon in Knightdale as a perfect example of an opportunity for commitment and purpose. Race day is Sunday, September 18 (purpose).  As of today, the cost is $ 65.00 but after September 14, it goes up to $75.00 (procrastination fee) eventually going up to $85.00. So let’s say you sign up (commitment) and use an 11 week Sprint Training Program. You grab a calendar and count back 11 weeks from September 14. You begin reading the program and you start training. Week 1, you are excited. Week 2, you realize that this is hard work but you have made a commitment so you keep training. Week 3, you ask yourself, what have I gotten myself into?  I can miss a workout or two but I can’t stop and certainly cannot quit going to the gym (purpose and commitment). Week 4, you start to feel stronger and your confidence grows, you begin to understand what training is all about and start to see real purpose in swimming, cycling and running. Before you know it, September 14 has arrived and thanks to the training program you committed to 11 weeks ago, you are ready. Will you be successful? Until you sign up, the end of the story cannot be written.

It was not at all difficult to create this scenario because I see it played out over and over again. When members sign up for an event and find purpose in their training, the gym becomes part of their lifestyle and they are less likely to walk away. Purpose in your gym routine seems to make the commitment to a gym membership all worthwhile. So how do you start? Talk to a runner or triathlete at your wellness center. If you are in Garner, talk to me and I will be happy to show the path toward finding your Race/Reward Day.

Here are a couple of pictures from the Garner Triathlon.

Garner Triathlon

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Pokémon Go Safety Tips

Pokémon Go surpassed Candy Crush Saga to become the most popular mobile game of all time with the highest amount of active users ever recorded. Here are some tips to keep in mind while playing:

  1. Like the game says, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t play while driving or walking around roads or parking lots. Also, be mindful of your own hiking skill level if you take on challenging terrain while trying to catch that elusive Dratini.
  2. If you plan to play for an extended period, prepare yourself! You should always stretch before exercising. Also, consider taking water with you, it’s hot out there.
  3. Be respectful of real world locations like museums, hospitals, or churches. Some public spaces may take exception to random trainers walking through checking in at a Pokestop. Use your best judgement.
  4. Be careful late at night or visiting remote locations. There have been some reports of robberies. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations.
  5. Encourage others to play with you. It is more fun to play with other people, and they can get some exercise too!
  6. Volunteer! Some local animal shelters encourage the community to take their dogs for walks. Why not stop by and walk a dog while you play?
    1. Saving Grace Animals for Adoption
    2. Wake GOV Animal Center
    3. SPCA of Wake County 
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Sophie and the Little Red Wagon

Sophie, a seven-year-old German Shepherd, has a kind heart and gentle spirit. Bone deformity cost Sophie her right front leg. In spite of her physical condition, Sophie is living her life to the fullest. When she’s not busy running and playing with other dogs, she’s motivating patients at UNC REX Hospital as a therapy dog. 


At her home in Wake Forest, NC, Sophie lives with her family of five German Shepherds who compete in dog shows throughout the year. Her owner, Sarah Bridges, raised and trained two champion show dogs from Sophie’s family. Though the tradition of a show dog lifestyle runs heavily in her bloodline, Sophie has unique talents that can only be shared off stage.

“She’s extremely friendly with people of all ages and has the ability to sense emotional needs without any commands,” Sarah says.

Three years ago, when Sarah visited a friend at UNC REX Hospital, she discovered REX Fur Friends, an Animal-Assisted Therapy Program.

“The second I saw the pamphlet about dog therapy teams, I said to myself, ‘This is where Sophie and I are going to apply,’ says Sarah.

Fur Friends has a total of nine dog teams who volunteer each week, offering companionship for patients at the hospital. The program’s mission is to provide encouragement and support to patients during their stay, bringing comfort and healing in every interaction. Studies show that pet therapy helps lower blood pressure, reduce overall physical pain, and cope with anxiety or stress. Sophie not only volunteers to relieve the stress of patients, but she works as a role model showing others how to take difficult situations in strides.


Today, Sarah and Sophie are cheering up patients and staff members, making new friends and building stronger relationships with every trip. Wheeling through the hallways, Sophie is instantly recognized as she cruises along in her signature red wooden wagon labeled, ‘Sophie’s Ride.’

“There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t get stopped by a staff member or visitor who wants to pet Sophie,” she says.

While therapy dogs build one-of-a-kind relationships between patients, so do their owners. Looking back at her most memorable moments as a volunteer, Sarah remembers the joy one patient experienced when meeting the therapy team for the first time.

DSC_1778Recovering from a stroke, the patient had difficulties moving her hands and legs on her own. Taking caution because of the patient’s physical condition, Sophie carefully sat on the bed with the woman to keep her company. Petting Sophie with a smile, the woman laughed and said, “My children would not believe that I’m lying in a hospital bed with a dog!”

“After Sophie laid her head on the lady’s right hand, she slowly started scratching Sophie’s chin,” says Sarah.

Then, a nurse in the room asked the patient to scratch the top of Sophie’s head, lifting her right hand.

“We watched the lady slowly move her hand over Sophie’s head, it was so meaningful to witness and be a part that milestone,” Sarah says. “When we left the room, her medical providers told me that it was the first time she had moved her right hand since beginning treatment,” she continues.

No matter what the level of impact the pair brings to patients, Sarah hopes to continue delivering inspiration from the little red wagon for many years to come.

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Reaching the Finish Line: Beach2Battleship Half-Iron Distance Triathlon

051613_TheresaPost by Theresa Pearce, a member of Rex Wellness Center of Garner. Theresa completed her first triathlon sprint in 2013 with Rodney Jenkins, a group exercise instructor at the Rex Wellness Center of Garner. This year, Theresa shares her experience on the challenges and successes she faced while participating in two half-iron distance triathlons. 

After completing several sprints in 2013 and 2014, I decided 2015 would be the year I would tackle two two half-iron distance triathlons, the Raleigh Ironman 70.3 in May and the Beach2Battleship at Wrightsville Beach in October. Knowing that I had to prepare for two triathlons with several weeks of training, as well as having plans to travel overseas,I was looking forward to a busy yet exciting year for me.

Training for the Raleigh race began at the end of January, and went really well. The day of the race approached very quickly. During the swim course, I spent too much time, barely making the cut off time. I got through 50 miles on the bike before getting pulled off the course by race officials, at that point,  time was not on my side. After 22 weeks of training, I was left with heartbreak and disappointment. However, I had no choice other than get over it and move on.

The third week of training for B2B was starting the following week which would give me a new goal to focus on. In this race, I was part of the 70.3 training group at Rex led by Rodney Jenkins. After a couple of days off, I was right back at it for a few weeks before my trip to Europe. While traveling abroad, my friend, Angie Jenkins, and I managed to get in a few outside runs along with some indoor cycling. Once we got back to the U.S., we returned to our regular training schedule.

Publication1All of a sudden, race day for the Beach2Battleship arrived and the weather conditions were nearly perfect. With a little help from the ocean current, my swim was faster in this race. This allowed me to get on the bike sooner. As I transitioned into the cycling course, I looked at my Garmin and realized the bike ride would be faster too. This meant that I would make it to the run and have a chance to finish. I didn’t expect to break any speed records on my run, my main goal was to just keep moving forward to get to the finish line.

Throughout the run I saw everyone from our training group at various stages of their runs as well as spectating friends from Rex who were there cheering us on. About mile 8 or 9 it started to hit me that I was going to make it. From that point on, tears would come and go all the way to the finish line. I was so happy to finish and get that medal because it really had been a long year of training and it finally paid off.

At the end, it was a exiting day for all, as everyone on our Garner Rex team finished. After a few hugs and some food, the group waited for fellow Rex members Liz and Jason to finish the full distance race before leaving for the night.

The next morning I awoke with tears in my eyes just thinking about what happened the night before. Though I didn’t get much sleep because I was too excited, I was on cloud nine. Some of us met for breakfast to talk about the race before leaving town. When we arrived home, Rodney and Angie presented me with a 70.3 magnet for my vehicle. I can’t thank them enough for the love and support they have showed me throughout this journey and beyond.

Publication2Our entire B2B training team is much appreciative of the support the Rex Wellness family has showed us throughout this adventure. In 2013 the plan was for Rodney to coach me to finish what was to be my first sprint and only triathlon. Coach and his wife have long since become close personal friends of mine for life and now I’m a 70.3 finisher for life!! You could say there was a slight change of plans.

I am proof that if you commit to your training and don’t give up, it is not required that you be tall, lean, or super fast to accomplish something as great as finishing a 70.3 half-iron triathlon.

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Rex NICU Stories: Dad to Dad

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Rex NICU Stories: Mom to Mom

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Help us say ‘Thank You’ to Rex Healthcare

RustyWagstaff3Hi, my name is Rusty Wagstaff and my wife is helping me write this post, I’ll explain why in a moment.

If you’ve made a donation to the Rex Healthcare Foundation in the past, I want to personally thank you, on behalf of the hundreds of patients and families you have helped  this year — including us.

Here’s how important your donations are.

The next time you drive by Rex, or walk through their doors, please take a moment to look around and realize how much you have done to keep Rex at the forefront of medicine.

Your help turned out to be tremendously important to me last December, when I suddenly needed everything that Rex could give.

It began with what I thought was the flu. At 54, I was still pretty athletic, but this was packing a punch. Three days before Christmas, with a fever of 105, an ambulance brought me to Rex.

By early Christmas morning, I was in a coma, in septic shock, with my organs failing. Our family gathered at my bedside.

This is where my wife Bonnie has to give you the details.

Bonnie tells me the doctors, intensive care nurses, and all my caregivers were quietly, compassionately determined I’d make it. Few people in my situation did. With a lot of help, I came through.

RustyWagstaff2However, in fighting the bacteria and staying alive, my body concentrated blood flow to my core. Later, my doctors were forced to amputate my legs and hands.

Now, with my new high-tech legs and ongoing rehab, I feel good and I’m doing great.

So here’s where you come in. Bonnie and I need a favor, and it’s not what you may think.

We’re asking you to help us thank Rex by sending a gift today.

When you do, you’ll help us make sure that Rex’s advanced care and kind compassion is always there whenever someone in a situation like mine comes through their doors. You’ll also be helping hundreds of patients and families in need.

With everything we’ve been through, we don’t have the resources to do this ourselves, but maybe you do.

If you can help us thank Rex, please make your gift of $25, $50, $100 or more online now. Or if you prefer, you can print the donation form and mail in your donation.

Please make a donation by Dec. 10th so the Rex Healthcare Foundation can start their 2015 planning.

Rusty visits the nurses that helped him during his stay at RexYour contribution, which is tax-deductible, will give them a running start towards meeting their year-end goal of $1.1 million and starting 2015 on firm footing.

You can give to thank a caregiver, or in memory of someone who changed your life.

If you’re like Bonnie and I were, healthy and busy, you might take hospitals for granted. But when we faced some-thing this traumatic and life-threatening, having Rex there was a blessing.

I know if it weren’t for Rex, I wouldn’t be writing this. I have to say, between my faith, everyone at Rex who supported us, and our family and friends, we have been very blessed.

You and yours may not need Rex as much as we did. But I can assure you, you can feel a lot of satisfaction knowing that when you donate to Rex, you’re saving someone’s life.

Please send the most generous gift you can.

(Want to learn more about Rusty’s journey? Read more via the News & Observer)

Donate Now

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Juan’s Rex Wellness Center Success Story

If you are setting a New Year’s goal to slim down-do not put “diet” on your list. According to Shelly Wegman, a nutritionist for the Rex Wellness Centers, “Diets make you deny yourself something, which is why they fail.” For some, the New Year brings along with it a time of renewed commitment to self-improvement and that means setting many ambitious goals for the future. It might be to work toward a promotion, organize your home, make healthier decisions or lose weight.

Juan Hernandez before he started his wellness program.

Juan Hernandez before he started his wellness program.

If becoming healthier and losing weight are your goals for the New Year, where should you start? Juan Hernandez, a member of the Rex Wellness Center in Garner, seems to have the answer.

For more than two years, Juan struggled with medical issues that left both his wife and him stressed, exhausted and often sick. In January 2011, after yet another round of medical issues, Juan knew he needed to make a lifestyle change. He joined the Rex Wellness Center in Garner at the end of January after seeing an online advertisement for a program called The Healthy Way. At the wellness center, he was given a free assessment and decided to join The Healthy Way class. The class, which combines nutrition education, exercise and a focus on well-being, met once a week for 12 weeks. “We help with goal-setting, barriers to change and setting up a meal plan that works with your specific needs,” says Wegman, one of the presenters of The Healthy Way program. Wegman lists three common barriers to New Year’s resolutions that relate to healthy weight and wellness-unrealistic expectations, time and lack of motivation.

It all starts by setting a realistic goal.

Last January, Juan’s goals were simple: To make a change in his life and get healthy overall. Whether that meant eating better, being stronger or just more flexible, he was going to feel better. One year later he’s still at it and he reminds us that simple is not the same as easy. Making a change, like Juan did, is anything but easy. “I had to totally restructure my habits and my schedule,” he says.

Find the time to eat healthy and move.

Programs like The Healthy Way and many others can help, but if joining a fitness facility isn’t a possibility at this point, there is still plenty that you can do at home to achieve wellness. The key is to take small steps and work your way up. A realistic food goal could be portion control, while an exercise goal could be to take a walk three times a week. Creating overly ambitious goals, such as working out five times a week at the start or completely removing all fatty foods from your diet, can lead to frustration and failure.

A meal plan should be designed to fit your needs. If you can, consider meeting with a dietician to discuss your goals and ways to work toward them. “It doesn’t have to be expensive to eat right,” says Wegman. “It just depends on what you buy. You will spend the most money on fruits, vegetables and meat, but if you are trying to save money, frozen fruits and veggies are a good alternative, as is buying local produce. Beans and eggs are also healthy choices and are not very expensive.” Wegman stresses portion control and suggests, “If you take smaller portions, your money will go farther.”

Juan Hernandez after one year of making healthy lifestyle choices.

Juan Hernandez after one year of making healthy lifestyle choices.

Rex Wellness personal trainer Learie Joseph suggests that you use your goals to determine the steps you should take next. “If you want to exercise more, there are many activities that can be done at home, including push-ups, pull-ups, lunges and squats, walks with family and going to the park. It also may be helpful to do these activities with a friend or family member. Sticking to a new task may be difficult if you are doing it alone and a partner can provide motivation.”

Staying motivated.

Over the last year, Juan has followed the advice of Wegman and Joseph, and used the information he learned from The Healthy Way class at the Rex Wellness Center. Thirty pounds later, Juan is off of his medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He no longer needs his Bi-Pap machine to help him get a restful night’s sleep and has reduced his waist size by seven inches.

“I have more energy, I am sleeping better and I am happier all around,” says Juan. When asked what his next goals are, Juan replied that he wants to continue his efforts and work toward dropping his weight to 200 pounds. “Eventually, I would really like to run again and be lighter on my feet,” says Juan, who was an avid runner in high school.

Article by Kendra Jordan and Jenny Johnson. Kendra Jordon and Jenny Johnson work in the marketing and public relations department at Rex Healthcare.

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