Pre-diabetes. Sleep apnea. Hypertension. Joint pain. These are just a few of the complications life was throwing at Juan. At nearly 400 pounds and with a body mass index of 49, Juan knew he needed to make a change. The sudden death of his brother pushed him to make that change.
“I got the call on Monday at work that my brother had passed away. Immediately I bought a ticket home and was on a flight to the Dominican Republic the next day. Diabetes and high blood pressure run in my family and I just kept thinking, every time I would visit my brother he would beg me to get healthy,” Juan explains.
During his visit home he went to the beach with his family. The family picture from that beach trip shook Juan to his core.
“My sister pulled me aside and said ‘it’s time for you to take care of yourself.’ The realization just hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew it was time,” Juan says.
The Decision to Finally Take Action
Within two weeks of his brother’s death, Juan had an appointment with George Kerlakian, MD, of TriHealth Weight Management, where he decided to have gastric bypass surgery.
“I was completely honest with Dr. Kerlakian about my struggles and I was willing to commit to the program,” Juan says.
Juan was in the program for a year and a half before having weight loss surgery. During this period, he met with a team of specialists with TriHealth Weight Management to prepare him for surgery and help him develop a healthier lifestyle to increase his chances for long-term success.
“You need this time to adjust. You need the counseling to help you sort through your emotions and to figure out your relationship with food,” Juan says.
Since his surgery in May 2018, Juan has lost 115 pounds. And, not only does he feel better as a whole since losing the weight, but the complications that once threatened to lead to greater health problems are now gone.
“Dr. Kerlakian saved my life. I was looking at having a stroke or heart attack and now my life has completely changed,” Juan says.
Paying it Forward
Juan’s only regret is that he didn’t have this surgery 10 years ago. But he’s taking a positive approach to his lifestyle moving forward.
“Now I’m encouraged to eat healthy and am conscious of what I put in my mouth,” he says. “Your body just becomes in tune with your healthy lifestyle—I now appreciate the flavors of food.”
To help him sustain his healthier lifestyle, Juan attends monthly weight management support group meetings at the TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion.
“These meetings really helped me in the beginning because it made me not feel isolated. This was the first surgery I ever had and I was nervous particularly for the anesthesia. At these meetings I was able to hear and see people’s real-life success stories,” Juan says.
When he attends weight management meetings, Juan is appreciative of the support and guidance he received early in the process. That is one reason why he is willing to share his success with others and provide encouragement to people who are facing the decision about surgery that he once had to make.
“My advice to someone considering this surgery is you should do it. All those worries I had before surgery went completely away after I had the surgery. It’s the little things that matter now. My clothes fit. I can fit in the seats at baseball games. I can stand at work all day and not be in pain. These little things are like a domino effect with your happiness. To be able to achieve something you have fought for, for so many years is an unbelievable feeling.”