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Woma.n loses &'gains

a son

Adopting dead sister's little boy kept her going through 20 operations dream Na come true, Connie Barbour lost 460 pounds - and gained a son. But her new life came with a high price - she also lost her sister Marcia in a deadly car crash. The two had never been close. Marcia was very critical of Connie's obesity. But when Marcia passed away, Connie adopted her son Collin as her own. "I just think it was meant to be," Connie, 45, told The ENQUIRER. "I love Collin as if he was my own flesh and blood. He calIs me 'mom' now and I think of him as my little boy. "Building our relationship has made amends for the bad relationship I had with Marcia. I hope I've finally made her proud of me." Connie struggled with her weight alI her life, but it was only when she hit 645 pounds and doctors said she was months away from death that she decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery in 2002. "I was so big I knew that soon I'd have to be physically cut out of my house in order to get to the hospital," she said. As the pounds dropped off, Connie needed a series of grueling reconstructive operations over a number of years' to remove massive folds of sagging skin. In one surgery, doctors removed a 5-foot flap of skin weighing 25 pounds. Then tragedy transformed her life even more. Connie was recuperating in a Califorrna hospital two days after yet another operation in 2005, when her estranged sister was killed. "The pain in my heart crippled my soul as I tried to remember the last time we even spoke," she said. Meanwhile, Collin's biological father threatened to put the baby in foster care if Connie didn't adopt him.

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Against doctor's orders and defYing excruciating pain from some 1,000 stitches, she flew home to Nashville, Tenn. - and adopted the boy, who is now 5. And it was Connie's love of Collin that kept her going through 20 more reconstructive operations.

"IT WOULD HAVE BEEN EASY TO QUIT," she admitted. "I was in agony after every operation, and the bills piled up ..But I'd tell myself I had to get my body right so I could earn a living to support Collin." I Now, 6-foot-tall Connie is down tC\almost 180 pounds. She has finalIy finished her medical

marathon, earned her degree as a psychiatric nurse, and got married on April 15. She shares her inspiring story on her Web site, www.conniejackson.net. and she says: "At 645 pounds, I felt helpless and hopeless. There are millions of women who feel the same, but I wantthem to know there's hope out there. I'm living proof."

July 19,2010 BLACK

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