Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day 1997
A Day That Changed My Life Forever!

Today, March 17, 2007 is a very big "anniversary" in my life. It was 10 years ago today that I was lying on a hospital bed waiting with my brother Mark to go into surgery. A surgery that would change my life forever.

Growing up "husky" was what my life was through junior and senior high school. In college I kept gaining wait. I loved to eat. I love steak, chocolate (Hershey's especially...that's me licking te giant Hershey Bar at a Hershey Museum in Niagara Falls in the photo above), pudding, pasta and a family favorites like Macaroni, Cheese & Tomato, Kay's Pizza, Charlies Hot Dog's, Ted's Fish Fry's and the ultimate dessert...Apple Crisp! So you see, I liked to eat and liked to eat well!

Well all that eating got to me. When I went to work at CBS, I kept gaining the weight. I was getting bigger and bigger and even though I was active (they call it ADDHD) and even played basketball and tennis when I was with my brothers, the effect of too much weight on my bones didn't help. I had tried all of the diets out there and none of them worked. Why? Well I could cut the calories for the time being but I never made the "lifestyle" change necessary to make it happen...permanently.

So, with the encouragement of my family and my boss Steve, I choose to do a radical thing. I chose gastric bypass surgery. Back then it was done only for those who were considered morbidly obese. That was me. I hate that term. But I had to do bones couldn't take it anymore.

It's always best to lose weight through a healthy diet and regular physical activity. But if you're like me and have tried and can't lose the excess weight that's causing your health problems, weight-loss (bariatric) surgery may be the only option. Gastric bypass, which changes the anatomy of your digestive system to limit the amount of food you can eat and digest, is the favored bariatric surgery in the United States. Most surgeons prefer this procedure because it's safer and has fewer complications than other available weight-loss surgeries. It can provide long-term, consistent weight loss if accompanied with ongoing behavior changes.

Gastric bypass surgery doesn't replace the need for following a healthy diet and regular physical activity program. In fact, the success of the surgery depends in part on your commitment to following the guidelines given to you about diet and exercise. I had to make every effort to exercise, change my eating habits and adjust any other lifestyle factors that have contributed to my excess weight. So how radical is this surgery? Read on.

In gastric bypass (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass) the surgeon creates a small pouch at the top of your stomach and adds a bypass around a segment of your small intestine. The surgeon staples your stomach across the top, sealing it off from the rest of your stomach. The resulting pouch is about the size of a walnut and can hold about an ounce of food. The pouch is physically separated from the rest of the stomach. Then, the surgeon cuts the small intestine and sews part of it directly onto the pouch. This redirects food, bypassing most of your stomach and the first section of your small intestine, the duodenum (doo-o-DEE-num). Food enters directly into the second section of your small intestine, the jejunum (jay-JOO-num), limiting your ability to absorb calories. Even though food never enters the lower part of your stomach, the stomach stays healthy and continues to secrete digestive juices to mix with food in your small intestine.

It takes a dedicated and skilled doctor to do this. One who knows what the heck their doing and cares for the patient as well. And in my opinion, there is NOBODY better than Sheilah Clayton in Pasadena. This lady made sure this surgery worked. She encouraged me, scolded me when I ddid wrong and truly cared about me as a person and a patient. Dr. Clayton has been the primary surgeon or the assistant surgeon in more than 1,200 bariatric surgeries. She has more than 15 years of experience in treating and caring for the morbidly obese. Without her, and the question "What's going to prevent you from getting big all over again?", I don't think this would have been such a success. Thanks Dr. C.!

That was 10 years ago. Wow. I still remember being wheeled out of the operating room, semi-awake, and seeing my brother standing there in the hall. I looked at him, gave him the "thumbs up" and screamed, "I did it!" Then I went back into la-la land for the next 24 hours or so.

My recuperation went well. My Mom & Dad came out from NY to take care of me, walk with me and encourage me. The weight came off. It was freaking amazing. 10 pounds, 20 pounds, 50 pounds. Wow! At the one year mark I have lost 150 pounds. By two years, I lost most of the weight I needed to. I wasn't the 180 pounds the charts said I should be but I was happy. I went from 459 pounds to 235 pounds. Mt pant size went from a 64 to a 34.I looked normal, felt normal and my bones didn't ache anymore. I was a miracle and the best choice I've probably ever made in my life.

As I write this, I remember so many things of being big and being small. This changed my life in ways I could not describe. It was a life of death decision that I had to take. There weren't many other choices that I could do and I am glad I did it. It's now 7:00AM and in 15 minutes, it will be exactly 10 years ago that I went under the knife. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

So, Happy Gastric Bypass Surgery Anniversary to me!
I couldn't think of a better way to spend St. Patrick's Day!