We'd like to share some stories with you that come from people that have been helped by the OHSU Bariatric Surgery Center.
In 2013, I had a back spasm that sent me to Urgent Care. When they weighed me, the scale showed 260 lbs.: my highest ever. Not only was I in physical pain, but that put me in emotional pain, too. I knew I had to do something.
That was my turning point.
I lost 45 lbs. on my own, but gained back half. I wasn’t able to do this on my own. I had considered bariatric surgery previously, but didn’t think it was for me. But after seeing friends who’d had bariatric surgery at OHSU and how well they were doing, I began to reconsider it.
In August 2015, I went to an information session at OHSU. Dr. Spight was leading it, and I liked him from the second he walked into the room. He made me feel so calm, like everything was going to be okay. I learned about the appointments I’d need to make, and also about how I’d have to adjust my attitudes about food. It’s not like you go in and have surgery and it’s all done. You have to change your way of thinking. It’s a huge process.
That meeting—it was like the first day of the rest of my life.
It took about three months from that first information session to surgery. In the meantime, I needed to lose a little weight and go to appointments that included dietitians, psychologists, sleep medicine, cardiology and others. Dawn was my nurse practitioner; she and I really clicked.
I had the gastric sleeve procedure in November, right around Thanksgiving. I felt well-cared for right from the start. The nursing team was fantastic: Truly a gift, and so encouraging. They helped me get up and walk right away, and the rest of the medical team was wonderful. I can’t imagine having surgery anywhere else. I am so grateful to have the team I had.
It’s been about nine months, and I have lost 110 lbs. I run/walk one or two 5k or 10k races a month. I did a nine
mile hike and hardly broke a sweat. And I learned to stand-up paddleboard! I don’t know if I would have been able to do that before—not just physically, but emotionally, too. Also, I’m inspiring otherpeople around me to eat healthily, which makes me feel great. I’m a registered nurse, and I wanted to get healthy because I could teach my patients, while feeling I was setting a good example.
I wish I could have done this 20 years ago. I didn’t have the ability to do this stuff and feel like this when I was heavy. All I wanted to do then was stay inside and hide. This is the best tool I have ever gained in my life.
I had been fighting my weight since I was 20. I was heavy as a kid, and then in my 20s I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. In my 30s I was diagnosed with low testosterone, and the treatment for that also contributed to my weight problem. I tried diet after diet, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t keep the weight off. I was in the service, exercising all the time, and I worked on a concrete crew, doing physical labor. It was still an ongoing battle.
By the time I was 40, my weight was around the highest it had ever been: 311 pounds. In my career in law enforcement, I could see myself having a heart attack and dying on the job. I thought, I have to do something. I asked about bariatric surgery options, and my primary care doctor referred me to OHSU.
First, I went to an orientation class at OHSU, where they explained what bariatric surgery was all about and how it could help us. When you go into something new, you can feel skeptical. To my relief, not only was I in a room with people like me, but the team was non-judgmental and understanding of my health issues. I felt very comfortable.
My orientation was in July, and I had my surgery in February. I had the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure. After surgery, everything went phenomenally. I was in the hospital about 48 hours. Two weeks later, I was back to work on light duty. Two weeks after that, I was approved to return to my regular work. They prepare you for the worst, but I don’t think I ever had a bad day. I was expecting more issues after the surgery and with recovery, and I had no problems. I don’t think my pain even hit a two on the pain scale.
I attribute my success to doing what the doctors and nutritionists said. I didn’t expect surgery to be a cure-all; I knew it was only a tool to help me lose and maintain weight. Dr. Spight did the surgery, my nurse practitioner was Dawn, and Bianca was my nutritionist. I felt like they were part of my family. They were so welcoming and open.
The day of my surgery, I weighed 295 lbs. Now I’m about 213, less than six months later. But for me, it’s not about everyone seeing me thinner, it’s about waking up and wanting to feel good and think better. Since the day of my surgery, I have felt better than I have in two decades. I don’t wake up feeling sick anymore. I did my first 5k race about a month ago.
There is such a stigma that if you are overweight or obese, you must be lazy. I sure as heck wasn’t lazy. Everyone’s metabolism is different. Nothing I did was going to change my weight. I didn’t have health problems because I was heavy—I was heavy because I had health problems. I was just willing to work with the team. Six to nine months might seem like a long time, but that time is going to pass whether or not you are involved in your health, and I chose to be.
My weight gain had started when I returned home from Iraq with physical issues from being deployed, as well as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). I had been active, playing softball four nights a week and working two jobs, but I couldn’t keep weight off. Also, I have degenerative disc disease in my lower back which has impacted my ability to exercise.
I wasn’t losing weight on my own, despite trying repeatedly. I extensively researched bariatric surgery, and I decided OHSU’s program was really good and offered what I needed. At OHSU’s information session, I got to ask questions in person and meet the team. That’s when I first met Dr. Mattar; he was nice, informative and patient-oriented—he genuinely cares. That’s another reason why I wanted him to do my surgery. The staff is so supportive, which is crucial for a procedure that’s going to change the rest of your life.
Prior to surgery, I needed to see a nutritionist for six months, as well as have regular appointments with a nurse practitioner. I also completed a sleep study, blood work and a psychiatric evaluation to determine if I qualified for surgery. All the staff at OHSU was amazing through the whole process, answering all my questions right away via MyChart or on the phone.
It was about seven months from my orientation to surgery. I had to mentally change how I viewed food. If I didn’t, I would have a terrible time adjusting to life after surgery. It was a mental game with myself to adjust to the new way of looking at food.
Surgery went so well: They called me a textbook patient. I was up walking as soon as I could, and only stayed in the hospital just over 24 hours. The next few days, I slept a lot, about 12 hours a day. Even though I knew what to expect, it was still hard to adjust to the fact that my stomach could hold no more than a shot glass’ worth of liquid protein.
Not going back to your old eating habits is key. If you have pasta, rice or breads, they taste good but they have no nutritional value for gastric patients. You have to make sure you meet your protein goal first and foremost. I chose to eat the right foods to maximize my protein goal and got creative in making the foods I love, like using Greek non-fat yogurt instead of mayo in my chicken salad as well as adding protein powder to boost the protein level.
I am very happy with my weight loss. It’s been a little over a year, and I have maybe 15 pounds left to lose. Before surgery, I weighed 298 pounds—my goal is 150. I started in a size 24, and now wear a 12. In women’s tops, I wore a size 1x; now, I’m a women’s large. These are huge, monumental accomplishments for me.
Now, I walk past the mirror, and think, “Holy cow!” The other day, someone called me “Skinny Mini.” I’d never heard that before. If you are thinking about this surgery, I would urge you to not give up the fight: You can achieve the goals you want.
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 .