Glenn is 63 years old. He does home repair work for a living, such as painting and fixing roofs. He had gastric bypass surgery in January, 2004. It was a laparoscopic surgery performed through 4 holes.
What weight loss steps had you tried before surgery?
I tried everything. I have been fighting weight for 40 years, since I was 19. I would starve myself, lose weight, gain some back, lose it, then gain it all back. I was fighting it all the time -- and I wasn't winning. I wasn't winning the war on fat.
How had your weight affected your life?
It got to where I had onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. And there were a lot of everyday things, too, where physically it just got more difficult to do things. It also took an emotional toll -- people look at you and think, he's lazy, he's fat, he's stupid. I'm neither stupid nor lazy. If you knew me, you would know that I am neither of those things. But that is people's first impression.
I was an army aviator for 34 years, and I had to stay below a certain weight, and every year was a struggle to stay below that limit. I'd exercise, but if I had any let up at all, I put it right back on.
What made you decide that surgery was the next step?
I knew a really large man who made me look like Slim Whitman, and when I saw him after a year, "I said what happened?" He said, "Oh, I had a gastric bypass. I wish I had done this 10 yrs ago." I mulled it over for a year or so before I took it on.
I did not go into this lightly. I didn't jump into as a fad. I wasn't doing well dieting, and when I got up to 309 pounds, I decided it was time to do something about it.
I met a woman who had the procedure because she "didn't want to exercise." I thought that was a ridiculous reason. That's the wrong attitude. In fact, now that I have had the procedure, I can exercise all day long -- my back doesn't ache, I don't get winded, my knee joints don't hurt. I go places, I climb 30-foot ladders.
What questions or concerns did you have before you had surgery?
This is an invasive procedure. My doctor said some people have complications. And, of course, it was expensive.
What was your weight before surgery?
What is your weight now?
178 - I lost about 100 pounds
Are you glad you had the surgery?
As far as what I went through, and how I feel today, I feel good about it. I want to see my grandchildren, and live another 20 years. I am skinny now.
My blood pressure and blood sugars are better. My cholesterol is better than before surgery, even though I was taking cholesterol-lowering medication before surgery. I was taking 6 - 7 prescribed medications at the time. I only have one now: potassium.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known before surgery?
Not particularly. I got most of the information I needed. The one thing you don't realize -- when they talk about a 4 ounce meal, buddy that is what you get.
What advice would you give to someone considering weight loss surgery?
Try to lose as much weight as possible before the surgery. Be sure that your partner is knowledgeable and knows as much about the surgery as you do.
I suggest joining a support group for the period after the surgery. I belong to one. It gives you insight -- you think you are the only one going through certain things, and you bring them up, and it's nice to know that you are not the only one going through them.
For example, I get cold easily -- I found out everybody else in my group does, too. Our partners don't understand why we are cold at 75 degrees.
You learn a lot about what other people are eating. Everybody says fruits and vegetables -- it turns out, I wasn't the only one craving grapes and bananas. You begin to like things you never ate before. I used to be a big meat eater. I don't want it any more -- I just throw it away. It doesn't taste good to me anymore. If I get ribs, I eat one rib. That's it.
The trick is to eat only when you are hungry, not just to eat. Eat wisely, not trash. You don't get enough nutrients no matter what, because you don't eat much. So you have to take supplements. I take liquid iron, liquid multivitamin, a folic acid pill, Tums for calcium, and I give myself B12 shots.
As an interesting side note, my great grandfather went to war in 1915. He was gassed, and after that he had stomach problems. In 1939, they did a very experimental procedure and took out his stomach completely - left him with just intestines. They made a pouch of his intestines. He lived with that from 1939 to 1965, and he died at age 91. The point is that by eating small meals, you can live with this kind of extreme surgery a long time.
Robert A. Cowles, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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