The date March 18, 2016, is permanently burned into Ted Shelton’s memory. It’s the moment when Novant Health registered dietitian Jennifer Anderson began helping turn his life around.

This year, to mark the third anniversary of his first appointment with Anderson, Shelton showed up at the Novant Health Matthews Wellness Center to surprise her with a colorful bouquet of roses and two cards.

Someone yelled out “Jennifer,” prompting her to look up across the crowded workout room.

She walked over to Shelton and the roses, smiling and looking a bit shocked.

“Hey Jennifer, you know what today is?” he asked.

“The anniversary of when we met three years ago,” she said.

Hugs and tears quickly followed.

Anderson was Shelton’s guidance and support as he recovered from complications of hip surgery, performed at another system. Shelton’s weight ballooned to 275 pounds.

Enter Anderson, who began working regularly with Shelton, then 56.

She is part of Novant Health’s Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. Anderson helps patients recovering from heart and vascular issues, emphasizing the proper lifestyle changes and a treatment plan to help them live a healthy, active life.

flowers duo
Ted Shelton (left) and Novant Health dietitian Jennifer Anderson

The emphasis became improving Shelton’s nutrition and exercise. He’s since shed more than 80 pounds, walks regularly and has a renewed outlook on life.

“It’s been three years and you’ve transformed my life in a biblical way,” he told Anderson, 34, who has worked six years at Novant Health. “You remember what I looked like. I can’t thank you and your team enough for making my life so much better. I’m standing here feeling like a real man - better, stronger and faster than I’ve ever been.”

“I’ve always seen you that way,” Anderson said. “I’m so happy to be part of your journey. You’ve done amazing.”

Walked 3,000 miles

Anderson showed Shelton the path to wellness, and he diligently invested sweat equity. He logged about 3,000 miles walking (as measured by his Fitbit) over the past three years. He ate correctly. His strength and mobility continue to improve.

His waist size went from 44 to 34.

“I could see how dedicated he was,” Anderson said. “Ted had such a big heart and really wanted to make a positive change.”

A thank-you card from Ted Shelton to registered dietitian Jennifer Anderson

So, on March 18, he showed up to thank his guiding force.

“She has a heart,” Shelton said. “Jennifer took a genuine interest in my situation. I think my first appointment was over an hour and a half. We went through the whole litany of where I was and why I was where I was. She listened. She was able to use her considerable knowledge and expertise to create a plan for me.

“What I did today is just a small fraction of what she has done for me. I can never repay her.”

Novant Health's Heart & Vascular Institute offers nutrition counseling services, cardio-pulmonary rehab and cancer wellness.