We'd like to share some stories with you that come from people that have been helped by the OHSU Bariatric Surgery Center.
A genetic tendency to diabetes brought Ralph Mickle to the point of needing a kidney transplant—but he had to lose weight to qualify. After gastric bypass at the OHSU Digestive Health Center, he lost 93 pounds and is looking forward to a new kidney.
It all started with my diabetes. There’s a lot of diabetes on my mom’s side because we’re Hispanic. I was diagnosed at age 28, and for about 10 years, I just took pills. But in 2008, I developed high blood pressure. It affected my eyes to the point that I had two retinal detachments. Then I was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease due to diabetes and high blood pressure. I started dialysis that fall.
After a couple of years, I asked my nephrologist in Salem about kidney transplant options and he referred me to OHSU. I learned about it and liked the idea, but I was pretty heavy. The kidney specialists said if I didn’t lose weight, they couldn’t start the transplant process.
That hit me pretty hard because it was very difficult to lose weight. I was a diabetic on insulin; I wasn’t gaining much, but it was very hard for me to lose. From online research, I found out about gastric bypass and lap band, two procedures that OHSU Digestive Health does. But when I told Dr. O’Rourke about my kidney disease, he said it made me a high-risk patient. He and his nurse practitioner thought I could lose weight with just diet, but I explained that had never worked in the past. I needed the surgery to lose the necessary weight and get on the waiting list for a transplant.
The doctor said OK, that changes the ball game. There is still a very high risk because of your kidney disorder, but if you lose some weight on your own and pass every single pre-surgery test, I will do the operation.
That was all I needed. I lost some weight and started the testing. There were a lot of tests, but I passed every one. The Digestive Health Center team was fantastic, including Dr. O’Rourke’s primary nurse practitioner and the patient care coordinator. Dr. O’ Rourke opted to do the gastric bypass, and before surgery, he asked if I would be willing to try the new robot they had. I said yes because I was so happy with him. He’d helped me so much, I figured I could help OHSU—and the surgery actually went quicker than usual.
On the day of surgery, I weighed 275 pounds. I lost about 93 pounds in 16 months and now weigh 187. My diabetes is under control to the point where my primary care doctor calls it borderline. My blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are great, and I take 80 percent less medication than before surgery. I’m officially listed for a kidney transplant at OHSU.
People who haven’t seen me in a long time sometimes don’t recognize me. I’m an avid golfer, and now I can walk 18 holes much more easily. I was a sales rep for Nike, and I want to get back to work full time, maybe have a family. I’ve also become an advocate for Hispanic patients with diabetes and kidney issues, and would like to go to Washington, D.C. to speak to Congress. The surgery has changed everything for the better. I am so thankful to my OHSU team, family and friends, especially my best friend, for their support. Now that I’m listed for a transplant, all I need to do is stay healthy and wait for the call.
Ocean Martin gained weight after escaping an abusive marriage. For years, her weight was a barrier that kept people at bay—but love for her 12-year-old grandson inspired her to seek a life-changing gastric bypass surgery.
I was at the beach with my 12-year-old grandson when I decided to do something about my weight. At the time, I weighed 400 lbs and used a walker. My grandson was helping me push it back from the water when I noticed people were looking at us. He said, “Don’t worry about them, Grandma. You’re beautiful inside and out.” But I was embarrassed for him and decided it was time for a change.
I tried a couple of weight loss places, but I wanted to go to the best. So I drove from Reedsport up to OHSU and went to a talk on gastric bypass surgery. My family agreed it was a good idea, so I started the pre-surgery tests for the Roux-en-Y procedure. Every time I went to OHSU, Dr. Deveney and the whole bariatric team were just awesome. They relieved any fears I had and were very good at communicating with me.
While I was in the hospital, they bent over backwards to make sure I was taken care of. Before I went home, I asked a friend to clear out every bit of food from my house—condiments, flour, Crisco. So when I came home, I only had the food I was supposed to eat. The bariatric team gave me a book that explained everything, including recipes and snack suggestions. I still use it—in fact, I have two of the recipes on my fridge. Whenever I needed more help, all I had to do was call.
I went from 400 pounds to 230 in less than 18 months. Now I’m aiming for my pre-children weight of 160. Surgery to remove excess skin will probably take off 30 pounds by itself. Before surgery, I had diabetes, joint problems, swelling in my feet and legs and neuropathy from the diabetes. I was on oxygen 24-7 and had a sleep apnea machine. Now I don’t use oxygen, have no diabetes or sleep apnea and the neuropathy is gone. I walk an hour and 20 minutes every day. More than that, I’m fulfilling my lifelong dream of rehabilitating problem dogs and finding them new homes. I would never have been able to do that before the surgery. Dr. Deveney gave me a fresh lease on life.
If you’re considering gastric bypass, you need to look inside yourself. It’s not a quick fix, it’s a lifestyle change. At the same time, I hope everyone who’s able to take advantage of this miracle will do so because the result is amazing. The simple fact is that nothing tastes as good as being thin feels. I’d put having gastric bypass surgery right up there with having a baby—it’s that kind of thrill. You’re shedding everything old and starting a brand-new adventure.
Hilary Glazier was developing serious health problems before having bariatric surgery at age 18. Today, she’s an active college student who credits the procedure with giving her a better life.
I never ate a lot growing up, but from the time I hit puberty, I started gaining weight at a rapid pace. At 13, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and insulin resistance, both conditions that are related to obesity. I started taking pre-diabetic medication.
When I tried to lose weight, my body wouldn’t let me. I’d lose a little, but if I ever stopped dieting, the weight came right back. When I was 17, I saw a TV commercial for weight loss surgery. It had never occurred to me before, but it seemed like a prospect for a better life. I brought it up to my parents and they were right on it. My dad works at OHSU, so he knew Dr. O’Rourke’s reputation.
Before deciding about treatment, I met with Dr. O’Rourke, and my parents and I did a lot of research. For my age and BMI, the Roux-en-Y surgery seemed like the most beneficial, especially since I could have it laparoscopically. Dr. O’Rourke had amazing success rates, and it just felt right. I was a little nervous about surgery, but I knew if I waited, my health would only get worse—and if I didn’t, it would definitely get better.
I went to the surgery orientation in April 2010 and had my procedure six months later, just after turning 18. OHSU has always been a great hospital, and they took good care of me. I had lots of visits from family and friends, and everyone was super excited to see me make this positive change.
After surgery, I was on a strict diet at first. With Roux-en-Y, it’s liquids only for the first two weeks. After that, I had to adjust to a new way of eating, including the mandatory portion control your body gives you. I had surgery in October, and at Thanksgiving, I had a little bowl with a bite or two of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and a bit of gravy. I could barely even finish that. I also had to learn to chew a lot, because after bariatric surgery, you digest your food more in your mouth. If you don’t chew enough or eat too fast, your stomach gets way too full.
I weighed about 320 when I had the surgery. I weigh 160 now – half of what I used to be. I’m 100 times healthier. I don’t take any medication, and I never became diabetic. Before surgery, I was pretty much on the brink of diabetes. I can work out a lot more than I did before. My weight didn’t affect me too much socially --- I’m a pretty outgoing person and always had a lot of friends – but it did bring me down a little, so that aspect of life is better too.
Some people told me 18 was too young to have surgery, but not a day goes by when I think I should have waited. Going to the orientation was quite an experience because there were people there much worse off than I was. People in wheelchairs, people whose faces and skin were red from bad circulation, people who had to have oxygen. It put things in perspective. I thought, “Why wait until I have worse health issues?” I’m in excellent health now, and I could be diabetic if I had waited.
I don’t regret having the surgery for a second. It changed my life and still does, every day.
Nancy, 62, had tried dozens of different diets and walking programs since she was 18, but was never able to keep the weight off. As she got older, being overweight made her fibromyalgia and arthritis worse, making it almost impossible to lead an active life.
“I feel so much more confident now.”
— Nancy, OHSU bariatric patient
When Nancy began to develop painful blood clots in her legs, several of which traveled to her lungs, her doctor told her she would be a good candidate for bariatric surgery. Initially, Nancy was nervous about the procedure, but her doubts were erased after she attended a free seminar at the OHSU Surgical Weight Reduction Center.
“The staff answered all of my questions honestly, and I met with OHSU patients who had already undergone bariatric procedures. The patients I spoke with all said they would do it again” Nancy said.
Before her surgery, Nancy weighed 265 lbs and wore either a size 22 or 24. Dr. Robert O’Rourke performed Nancy’s laparoscopic surgery. She was back at work as a real estate agent two weeks later.
The weight quickly started falling off her and her energy increased dramatically. Today, Nancy weighs 170 lbs and enjoys being able to wear a size 12.
“I lost almost a whole person. Clothes shopping is fun now. Every day I feel better. I went from being sedentary to being much more active” Nancy said.
Although Nancy remains on medication for her blood clots, she has not had any more leg pain or swelling. Her blood pressure and cholesterol have dropped low enough that she no longer needs medication, and she no longer has problems with acid reflux.
“I would recommend OHSU and this surgery to anyone who is miserable about their weight and has tried all the diets. No one treated me like I was fat. I feel so much more confident and better about myself now.
“I feel like a whole new person. For 34 years I have been battling my weight, and now I have the energy to keep up with my grandson.”
Bonnie saw an advertisement for surgical weight loss, and after careful research, thought it would be a good option for her. She chose OHSU for its depth and breadth of expertise, and surgeons with extensive knowledge in bariatric surgery.
Bonnie then attended an orientation meeting at the OHSU Surgical Weight Reduction Center to learn more about the procedures. After her surgery It didn’t take long for the weight to start coming off and for Bonnie to notice a significant change in how she felt.
"I was very impressed with the depth and detail they went into to describe the entire procedure; the doctor made it very clear that bariatric surgery is not something to take lightly. I really trusted my health to them."
In addition to losing weight and keeping it off, Bonnie's overall health has improved significantly. Since her surgery, Bonnie no longer has to take medication for high blood pressure, or acid reflux. And she no longer sufferes from mild sleep apnea.
At 5’4” and 245 lbs, Bonnie knew she had to do something about her weight. She had tried countless diets and was never able to keep the weight off. Since having laparoscopic gastric bypass bariatric surgery at the OHSU Surgical Weight Reduction Center almost a year ago, she has lost more than 100 lbs, and shrunk from a size 22 to a size 8.
“My husband and sisters are so proud of me. I would recommend the surgery to anyone.”
-Bonnie, OHSU bariatric patient
Before Gary had bariatric surgery at the age of 54, he couldn’t walk more than 50 feet without sitting to rest. He also suffered from sleep apnea. More importantly, he was about to become a grandfather and wanted to be healthy, and able to play with his grandchildren. After trying countless diets, he considered surgical weight loss.
“I had convinced myself that I didn't mind being overweight, but I feel so much better about myself now”
— Gary, OHSU bariatric patient
Gary started losing weight almost immediately after his duodenal switch surgery, and within two months he was completely healed from the procedure. His energy has increased dramatically, and he no longer suffers from sleep apnea.
“I can walk all day without resting now. I can play ball with my grandchildren or pull them in their wagon,” said Gary . “I had convinced myself that I didn't mind being overweight, but I feel so much better about myself now.”
When asked about his thoughts on weight loss surgery, he tells people he would do it again in a heartbeat if he needed to.
“If you are considering surgical weight loss, go to OHSU. They have done these procedures so many times, and the doctors there know exactly what they are doing,” said Gary .