Jonathan Before Surgery
- Starting weight: 512
- Pounds lost: 204
- Current weight: 308
- Goal weight: 230
- Mantra: “No matter what happens, fight.”
Sitting at a table in the cafeteria of Good Samaritan Hospital, 30-year-old Jonathan Blue shakes his head in disbelief. He doesn’t know how he missed the signs – like when, a few years ago, he spent half his evening sitting outside a hockey arena crying, upset he couldn’t fit into his seat. In the end, however, the night worked out, he recalls. “My mother-in-law ended up getting us into a skybox that was empty, but the thing is, I don’t remember the really cool skybox. Whenever I think about that night, I think about sitting outside.”
Then, there was a daily reminder: his clothes. During his peak weight, 512 pounds, Jonathan got a job as a pharmacy tech at Good Samaritan. He needed a special-order uniform to accomodate for his size, 7XL.
“A lot of people talk about how they had this ah-ha moment. That never really happened for me,” he explains. “When I look back, I’m like, ‘I should have gotten it.’”
A Downward Spiral into Obesity
Jonathan, described by his family and friends as outgoing and warm throughout most of his life, started gaining weight toward the end of high school, and as the pounds packed on, his personality faded. People were noticing. One day his brother, Benjamin, pulled Jonathan aside and said something that resonated. He wanted his brother back. “You’re a shell of what you used to be,” Benjamin told him. “I’m scared to death you’re going to die in the next few years.”
Benjamin offered to buy Jonathan’s gym membership, under one condition: that Jonathan work out three times a week. Jonathan obliged. Over the course of the next six months, he swam regularly. It was all he could do; it was the only activity that didn’t put too much strain on his joints. He saw a little bit of progress, but the scale still didn’t tilt much.
Jonathan's Mom Intervenes
About a year later, in the summer of 2013, Jonathan’s mom came to him and offered a different, more drastic incentive. She offered to pay for him to have weight-loss surgery. “At that point I’d tried everything. I hit a point where my excuses didn’t matter anymore,” he recalls. “I started researching extensively.” Coincidentally, around this time, Jonathan learned one of his colleagues had gastric bypass surgery at TriHealth Weight Management. All the signs kept pushing him in one direction, toward making the lifestyle changes necessary to lose weight for good.
He scheduled an initial meeting at Weight Management and put in a request to his insurance provider for gastric bypass surgery. It cleared within a few weeks and less than two months later, on Nov. 4, 2013, he went in for Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass at Good Samaritan. He was anxious the day of surgery. He wondered: How will my body handle this? Will I make it out OK?
George Kerlakian MD, Jonathan's surgeon, was straight-forward with Jonathan about any complications that could arise, given his health status. Jonathan appreciated that. “It’s a major surgery and everybody was worried about complications, and Dr. Kerlakian, being the guy he is, is absolutely amazing,” Jonathan says. “He’s one of the only surgeons I know who can be blunt about something serious and still leave you feeling pretty good about it. You can’t really teach that.”
Post-surgery, however, Jonathan realized he had nothing to fret over. “As far as the hospital stay and recovery, it was a breeze,” he smiles. He spent the minimum, three days, in post-op before he was able to go home.
Life Post-Surgery: Jonathan Started Losing Nearly Three Pounds a Day
Jonathan took the recommended six weeks off work for recovery; but, by the fourth week he felt fine, physically. For him, the hard part was adjusting his diet – making sure he was consuming enough food and the right nutrients. He spent nearly every waking minute either planning his next meal or hydrating. While life post-surgery was a challenge, Jonathan says every second has been worth it.
About four or five weeks after surgery, he was down 40 pounds. Once he started back to work at the pharmacy, where he walks anywhere between eight and 12 miles per night (he works the overnight shift), weight started falling off, to the tune of about three pounds a day. At the six-week mark, Dr. Kerlakian cleared Jonathan to transition back into swimming. Eventually, he started working with personal trainers who showed him a variety of land exercises that involve a combination of body weight resistance training, boxing and CrossFit. His dedication to his fitness routine has paid off. He’s down to 308 pounds. “I’ve been packing on some muscle,” he laughs.
Now, less than a year after surgery, he’s thrilled to have the energy and confidence to go after goals he never thought possible. He’s a certified aquatic personal trainer, aquatic fitness instructor and lifeguard. He’s taken his fitness goals to land, too, as he trains for the Flying Pig Half-Marathon. Additionally, he’s pursuing a degree in medical administration and expects to graduate at the end of 2015.
The more he accomplishes, the higher he sets the bar. “I’ll push myself to a point that I never thought I could get to and then I get there and I’m like, ‘I bet you could do more next time,’” he says.
Nothing, however, tops a comment he received from his best friend a few months back. “He said, “Over time, I slowly watched you die a little. I’ve got my friend back,’” Jonathan smiles.
“All of that was in there the whole time. It was just suppressed by hundreds of pounds of extra weight,” he adds.