As a football player for Tiffin University in the late 1980s, it was natural – and even encouraged – for Richard Edwards III to put on weight.
“I was muscular and active,” Richard says of his first two years playing defensive end and cornerback. After two years in college, however, he had a career- ending knee injury. “I wasn’t active after that. I made bad eating choices.”
By around 1995, the once 200-pound, 6’3” high school football standout weighed 686 pounds. His standard wardrobe included size 9X shirts and 10X sweatpants, with size 17 Crocs shoes. “It was awkward, but I could get around,” he says.
For several years, Richard didn’t worry much about his health or his weight, until he collapsed one night at work. It was 2013, and a trip to the hospital confirmed that he had diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and swelling in his leg from lymphedema.
He began seeing TriHealth family practitioner Smita Saraf, MD, who counseled Richard on managing his health conditions. He got a CPAP machine to help with his breathing at night. Dr. Saraf also urged him to get weight loss surgery. “She would sign me up for classes at TriHealth Weight Management, and I kept skipping,” Richard says.
“It took about a year for me to go to classes. My main motivation was not dying. My doctor said I’d probably be dead in the next 10 years if I did nothing.”
Richard appreciated dietitians, nurses and others who helped him get ready for surgery and life after surgery. His surgeon at TriHealth Weight Management, George Kerlakian, MD, “was encouraging and made me feel comfortable. He made it very easy for me.”
In January 2017, Dr. Kerlakian performed a Roux-en-Y procedure to staple off a part of Richard’s stomach and reposition his small intestine to receive food from the smaller stomach pouch. The surgery went smoothly, with no complications. For the first several weeks, Richard lost 15 pounds a week as he followed his prescribed diet.
“I don’t eat big meals anymore,” Richard says. “I live by a bunch of fast food restaurants, and it doesn’t affect me anymore. Everyone wants to feed me something. People want to take me out. I take a lot of to-go boxes home with me.”
Close to three years after the surgery, he’s down to 285 pounds, less than half his original weight. “I’m happy where I’m at,” he says. “I’m wearing 2X instead of 10X sweatpants. I can wear jeans and tennis shoes.”
More importantly, Richard doesn’t have diabetes now. He has had two procedures for lymphedema, a swelling in his leg, but he’s feeling much better overall.
“I’m getting around a lot better, and I have a whole bunch of energy. I just came back from a reunion weekend with relatives from West Virginia, and I turned a lot of heads. Some of my relatives didn’t recognize me.”
He continues, “The biggest thing is that I was sitting in the house a lot. Now, I’m getting out more. I took my dad to a concert in Louisville. I’m going to see my son in North Carolina before he goes into the Navy.”
He credits the weight management team with giving him a chance to “live a little longer. It was a life-changing experience. I wouldn’t be here without them. I’d like to say thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you did.”