Gregg and Ronnel Evans have been happily married for 46 years and look forward to traveling in their motorhome when they retire. But, until recently, weight-related health problems stood in the way of achieving their dream.

Ronnel, 63, had been overweight all of her life and several years ago reached her heaviest weight – about 320 pounds. She had tried diets such as Weight Watchers and Atkins and exercise programs at Curves and the YMCA. She would lose weight but eventually regain it and then become even heavier. Still, she considered herself pretty healthy until her knees began to hurt badly.

Her orthopedic surgeon recommended surgery but told Ronnel that she first needed to lose some weight. At that point, she realized her weight had become a significant problem and made an appointment with Christopher Eagon, MD, a Washington University bariatric surgeon. In July 2008, Ronnel underwent a laparoscopic adjustable banding procedure and began a journey back to optimal health. She had successful knee surgery in March 2009 and now sees a big difference in her outlook.

“Today, I shop in the size 16 racks, rather than the 5X rack in the big ladies store,” Ronnel says. “I have more stamina and a little more bounce in my step.”

After watching Ronnel’s success, Gregg came to a crossroads in his own personal health. Gregg, too, had been overweight throughout his adult life, and his weight of 263 pounds had contributed to serious medical problems. He was on three blood pressure medicines and used an insulin pump to treat his type 2 diabetes.

When Gregg had his annual checkup shortly after turning 64, his endocrinologist told him Medicare would not cover his insulin pump or supplies when he turned 65.  Gregg brought up Ronnel’s successful laparoscopic banding surgery, and the doctor concurred that weight loss surgery could help with his medical problems. “He suggested the gastric bypass route since it had a very good success rate in curing type 2 diabetes,” says Gregg.

In May 2010, Eagon performed a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery on Gregg. Although his recovery was a little longer than Ronnel’s – since gastric bypass involves surgically creating an upper pouch in the stomach in comparison to wrapping a band around the upper stomach – Gregg was back to work in several weeks. Less than a year later, he weighed 163 pounds and was off all of his blood pressure medicines and taking only oral medicine for diabetes.

Gregg, who works at Washington University School of Medicine, and Ronnel, who is employed by the Cahokia School District, got a glimpse of how good retirement may be when they traveled to Disney World in October 2010. They traveled by air, something they had given up before Ronnel’s surgery because of the difficulty with seating. And they walked throughout the theme park without difficulty. “You have that extra ‘giddyup’ you didn’t have before,” says Ronnel.

In addition to traveling in retirement, the couple will be doing volunteer work for their church.

“We are both so happy that we are so much healthier and look forward to retiring together with fewer worries,” says Gregg. “Dr. Eagon and his caring staff have given us a brighter outlook for the rest of our lives.”