Some of our patients tell their stories about weight loss surgery:
For Tenika Flowers, age 36, a registered medical assistant III in the Gastrointestinal Center at Washington University School of Medicine, it was an inspiring conversation with a physician that made her determined to lose weight and return to good health.
Flowers recalls struggling with her weight for years, adding a number of pounds after the death of her grandmother. She had tried Weight Watchers and other programs, but they were unsuccessful. She had difficulties with everyday activities and was starting to have borderline lab numbers for obesity-related health problems. She became interested in surgical treatment and at 310 pounds, standing 5’ 6 ½ “ tall, she underwent gastric bypass surgery on July 18, 2018, with J. Christopher Eagon, MD, as her surgeon.
She said to have success during the process takes mental preparation. “Even now, I have to stay focused and push myself,” she says. Her recovery went well and she was back to work in four weeks.
Flowers says the largest impact on her life has been with everyday things. “Now I can walk to the train and play with my niece without getting winded,” she says. “I feel better overall.”
Quote: “Now I can walk to the train and play with my niece without getting winded,” she says. “I feel better overall.”
Paul Konnick was always a larger person and closed out his college football career weighing 345 pounds. When he traveled for business, he required a seatbelt extension to sit in an airplane seat. At the age of 27, with high blood pressure from his heavy weight, he decided to be proactive and avoid other health problems that often go hand in hand with morbid obesity by undergoing gastric bypass surgery.
Washington University weight loss surgeon J. Chris Eagon performed gastric bypass surgery on Konnick in March 2008, and Konnick’s weight went down to 195 pounds. Following the weight loss team-recommended dietary regimen and participating in the gastric bypass surgery support group has helped Konnick stay on track and maintain a healthy weight.
Quote: “Before my surgery, I had gone on some different diets and seen dietitians. A couple of times, I lost 100 pounds through diet and exercise only to gain it back shortly thereafter.”
Severely overweight at the age of 16, Brittany Lewis had already tried several well-known weight loss programs and found teenage life difficult as she approached almost 300 pounds. It was difficult to walk around the mall with friends without being short of breath. So in June 2010, when she was 18, she underwent laparoscopic gastric banding procedure at Washington University and 20 months later had lost 140 pounds.
Young bariatric patients such as Lewis must begin a lifelong rigorous program for eating, drinking and exercise. The surgery is becoming more common in obese teens as new research suggests it may be more effective than behavioral programs alone.
Quote: “I tried Weight Watchers, Atkins, cutting down on calories, eating smaller portions,” she says. “I would lose some weight but I would always gain it back. Since having the surgery, I feel amazing and have a lot more energy.”
A former member of the U.S. Women’s Army Corps, Ellen was morbidly obese for 30 years. In the mid-1990s, her health started to deteriorate and she had accessibility problems. After a fall in 2001 and a resulting hospital stay, her weight went up to more than 500 pounds. Davis had open gastric bypass surgery in April 2005 at Washington University and had lost 320 pounds by her three-year check-up. Her weight loss surgery was accompanied by physical therapy and operations to remove excess skin.
Davis participates in the Barnes-Jewish Hospital support group for patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery and thinks people often make mistaken judgments about why someone may have gained so much weight. For this reason, she shares her story to help others learn from her experience.
Quote: I am in the best health that I have been in conscious memory and am no longer diabetic. Now I can dance, walk and sit in a regular chair. Clothing fits, and I find many things that are stylish to wear.”
As someone who has gone through the program herself, Washington University Weight Loss Surgery Program coordinator Angela Britt has a unique perspective for patients. Although Britt was an active person, she was a larger child and as she grew up, she continued to put on weight. After years of diet and exercise, her weight was still a medical and social burden, so at the age of 39 and 253 pounds, Britt was well into the category of being morbidly obese with hypertension, high cholesterol and osteoarthritis in her knees.
She met with J. Chris Eagon, MD, and underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding in April 2009 and lost more than 90 pounds, normalizing her blood pressure and cholesterol.
Quote: “I have a new emphasis. Now I have to fit food into my life because I have so many other activities going on. There are so many positive things that have happened since I had the surgery.”
Gregg and Ronnel Evans
Gregg and Ronnel Evans are a married couple whose weight-related health problems were standing in the way of their retirement dreams. Overweight all her life, Ronnel was at her heaviest at 320 pounds, having tried multiple diet and exercise programs. She began having knee problems and needed to lose weight before being a candidate for orthopedic surgery. She underwent a laparoscopic banding procedure in 2008 with J Chris Eagon and was able to get knee surgery in 2009.
Overweight throughout his adult life, Gregg was starting to have serious medical problems at 263 pounds. After observing his wife’s success with the surgery, Gregg underwent laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery in 2010 and weighed 163 pounds less than a year later, allowing him to come off of his blood pressure medicines and go only oral medicine for diabetes.
Quote from Ronnel: “I have more stamina and a little more bounce in my step.”
Quote from Gregg: “We are both so happy that we are so much healthier and look forward to retiring together with fewer worries. Dr. Eagon and his caring staff have given us a brighter outlook for the rest of our lives.”
Three members of a West St. Louis County family knew the medical problems and struggles of obesity all too well before undergoing weight loss surgery in late 2011. Nine months later, they had achieved a combined weight loss of more than 400 pounds and supported each other closely as they continued their follow-up with the Washington University Weight Loss Surgery Program.
Mike Caldwell was the first in the family to undergo weight loss surgery, weighing 340 pounds on the day of his gastric bypass surgery in 2011. He has since lost about 111 pounds. The oldest Caldwell son, Mike, 19, weighed 485 pounds and Shelly, wife and mother, weighed about 385 pounds when they underwent sleeve gastrectomy at the end of 2011. In the summer of 2012, son Mike was down to 345 pounds and Shelly to 295 pounds. Dad Mike no longer has diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol and Shelly and son Mike have experienced their own health benefits and find day-to-day life much easier.
Quote from Mike: “People have a lot of questions about the surgery. Is it safe? Am I going to like it? I would do it again in a minute. The only regret I have is not doing it sooner.”