Rachael and Carmen P. Complete Story

Taken from an internal New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) article - 8/13/2008

Syracuse Carmen & Rachael P. Shed 424 Lbs.

Syracuse employees and husband and wife Carmen and Rachael P. began discussing weight loss surgery in September 2006, when their size made it difficult to help in caring for Rachael's mother, who was ill at the time. At about 400 lbs. each, the two knew they needed to do something to take control of their own health as well. "My particular motivation to have gastric bypass surgery was to be able to be more active and do the things that I couldn't do at 400 pounds," Mr. P. said. "With Rachael and I both heavy, it would have been impossible for us to take care of each other at the weight we were. There are also a lot of things that we wanted to do, like travel and enjoying outdoor walks. I realize that it was elective surgery, but for me it was vital and needed. I came to that conclusion after years of trying everything else to get my life back from morbid obesity. In January of 2007, I weighed around 390 pounds." Approximately eight months since surgery, Mr. P. weighs 165 lbs. and has participated in his first corporate challenge event with NYSIF coworkers, and he's feeling like a new man. "It's wonderful to be able to purchase clothing at a normal store," he wrote in an email. "I haven't been able to do that in a long, long time. It's nice to climb stairs again without having to stop every three steps and being short of breath when I reached the top.

Runs In First Corporate Challenge

"The Corporate Challenge was one of the events in which I was looking forward to participating. I was able to walk the 3.5 miles without any shortness of breath and not perspiring profusely. I wouldn't have been able to even think about doing it a short year ago. It made me feel good about myself, which is another priceless benefit from this experience." Mrs. P. is down to 215 lbs., and would like to drop another 65 lbs., or so. "I decided to do this procedure for many reasons," she said. "It seemed I had tried every diet out there and nothing worked. I had so much weight to lose even if a diet worked, it would have taken a long time to get my weight to a healthy weight. I was sick of taking pills, never having any energy. I was existing, not living life. I couldn't travel or do the things I wanted to do, it was getting harder and harder to find clothes to fit."

Surgery Is Only Part Of The Program

After researching alternatives on the Internet, Mr. P. contacted the Bariatric Center in Syracuse. At their first appointment in March 2007, Mr. P. weighed 355 lbs. and Mrs. P. weighed 414 lbs. They were told they had to lose some weight on their own before they could be eligible for weight loss surgery. "They don't tell you any program to follow, you have to decide what works best for you," Mrs. P. said. "We decided to cut out snacking and we cut out pasta, bread and potatoes. We also tried to reduce the number of times that we went out to eat. Since we have no children, it seemed easier to order food for delivery or go out to eat. I also enjoy baking and cut out baking while we were trying to lose weight." By May 2007 both Carmen and Rachael P. had achieved a five percent weight loss. "I had lost 30 lbs. prior to surgery and Carmen lost 50 lbs," Mrs. P. said. There are rigid steps to follow for successful results after surgery: No drinking with meals, no drinking a half hour before meals and no drinking an hour after meals; no snacking; chew your food 20 times; wait five minutes between bites of food; no caffeine, eat protein first; take only 2030 minutes for a meal, and take vitamins. "The surgeon we had only does about one surgery a week and we were told from the beginning that this is usually a six-month process," Mrs. P. explained. "They also want the process to take some time so that you learn to follow the steps. Every doctor has different procedures that may have to be followed and the bariatric surgery field is always changing. "When you have this surgery done, you can only eat small amounts of food. The first week after surgery, you are on a liquid diet, then for a couple of weeks you are on soft foods like tuna fish, chicken salad, scrambled eggs. Then you can start to eat normal foodsprotein first and try not to have over five grams of sugar in our food at each meal. We are to drink 48-64 ounces of liquid every dayyou can't drink with your meals and have to wait an hour after a meal and a half hour before a meal to drink. We have to plan our day around our eating and drinking schedule. You still have to make smart food choices and watch your portion size.

More To Life Than Food

"You learn that there is a lot more to life than food," Mrs. P. added. "It was a little difficult the first holiday season, but you learn it's the people you are with that are important, not the food that is there. "I returned to work after about three weeks. I felt it was necessary to get on a schedule of eating and drinking. For the first few months, you get very tired. "Some people do manage to gain the weight back; the surgery is just a tool to help you get started. For me, one look at my before picture is enough to stay motivated. I have hit many plateaus in my weight loss and it does get discouraging at times. My husband is always there to support and encourage me." "We belong to a support group that meets weekly and that helps us stay on track," Mr. P. said. "It is nice to be able to help the new people considering surgery." Both also have had several weight-related health issues that serve as motivation to take the weight off and keep if off. "I had to get to the bottom before I could see the light," Mr. P. said. "I was an accident waiting to happen. I had high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, Naproxen for constant joint pain, C-PAP machine at night for sleep apnea. All of those medicines were gone the day after my surgery. The C-PAP was history within four or five months after surgery." Fortunately, Mr. P. said he decided to give up a 2.5-pack-a-day cigarette habit when he met Rachael. If I had kept that up along with all of the other weight related issues I had, I would not be here today," he said.

Don't Wait To Be Good To Yourself

"Words of wisdom to fellow NYSIF coworkers, be good to yourself," Mr. P. said. "Please don't wait for a hard slap in the face before you do something about your health. When you are ready to make a commitment, you will know it and it will be time. "One more benefit from this experience is that I think I have become a better and more productive person since I lost the weight. I'm more focused and able to concentrate better. My energy level has exploded exponentially. Sometimes it is hard to make the decision to do something for yourself, but the decision has improved my life immeasurably and will allow me to spend many more healthful happy years with Rachael." Both Mr. and Mrs. P. caution that weight loss surgery is not the best course for everyone, nor is it always successful. "I hope this article has educated people about the process we went through and helps people struggling with their weight," Mrs. P. said. "We have had nothing but support from our coworkers, family and friends. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact us."