Ten years ago, Paris Jackson’s kidney function had dropped to 18 percent; he went on dialysis to save his life. His doctor told Paris – who was then 39 – that his best long-term option would be to get on the list for a kidney transplant – but he’d have to lose significant weight first.
Once carrying 385 pounds on his 6-foot-3-inch frame, Paris says, “They wouldn’t do a transplant until I was down under 230 pounds.”
He and his wife, Kim, who had reached 318 pounds, tried dieting, Weight Watchers and exercising. In the end, Paris couldn’t give up his desire to eat.
He began exploring bariatric surgery, but he’d never had any type of surgery and the thought of it scared him. He went to orientation programs for weight loss surgery and backed out at least a dozen times.
What ultimately convinced him to attempt surgery as a pathway to a kidney transplant was that “I found out my daughter was pregnant, and I knew I wanted to be there for my grandson.”
They talked with him on the recommendation of Paris’ nephrologist. Kim, a nurse with the Cincinnati Health Department, found in Dr. Kerlakian someone she could trust for her husband’s care. “He explained everything to us, and we connected,” she says.
Paris chose the sleeve gastrectomy procedure, which Dr. Kerlakian performed in November 2016 at TriHealth’s Good Samaritan Hospital.
“The weight came off pretty fast,” Paris says. I was down 50 pounds in four months.” By March 2018, he achieved his goal of reaching 230 pounds and went on the transplant list.
While waiting for Paris to get a kidney, Kim began to pay more attention to her own health. She was tired a lot, and often short of breath. “I was overwhelmed with homework and school, maybe getting a little sleep apnea. I was getting stress incontinence, and my blood pressure was creeping up. Diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease were in my family. I wasn’t willing to take that chance.”
Kim had attended Paris’ classes with TriHealth Weight Management, so she knew what to expect. She went back to Dr. Kerlakian, because she trusted him and his staff. She had her gastric sleeve procedure on June 12, 2018. Today, she’s nearly 100 pounds lighter and is amazed at the difference in her life.
“I’m not tired when I wake up,” she says. “The apnea is gone. I can wear heels and go up and down steps at work. I’m at size 16 and knocking at the 14 door. My walking pace has increased – It’s almost like a power jog.”
Kim needed her new-found energy when Paris got the call on November 7, 2018, that a kidney was available. The kidney was flown to Cincinnati, and he had successful kidney transplant surgery on Nov. 8.
Months after his transplant surgery, Paris says he feels “absolutely great. I can get all the overtime I want at work [as a forklift driver for Ford]. I can travel anytime I want to.”
Kim points out that dialysis treatments three days a week had consumed 15 hours each week and made travel difficult.
“When I was on dialysis,” Paris says, “I’d come home and rest so I could go to work. Now, I play basketball with my grandson and go bowling with him.”
From her perspective, Kim comments, “Our marriage is better. We have more time and more energy. We were recently in the backyard at the fire pit until 2 a.m. We’re looking forward to flying to Las Vegas and not buying an extra seat.”
This fall, they’ve promised themselves a celebratory trip to Aruba.
Kim says the most fundamental change is “I’m not living to eat. I’m eating to live. Food is fuel. Protein is feeding my muscles. In my mind, I want pancakes. I want French toast, but I’ve had to learn how to reconstruct food in my life.”
She concludes, “The weight is still coming off and I’m feeling better. With the weight we’ve both lost, it’s like an extra person has moved out of our bedroom!
“Weight loss surgery has improved my self-esteem,” she adds. “Before, I didn’t want to be seen. Now I know who I am and what I stand for.”