Retiree Toby Greenwood, 60, from Coolidge, Georgia, knew that he had to make a change. Weighing in at 335 pounds and taking various medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, he sought help from Sterling Bariatrics at Colquitt Regional Medical Center for a gastric sleeve procedure last June.
“I was miserable,” he said. “I gained a tremendous amount of weight for me, and I had always been pretty athletic and been able to do the things I wanted to do. But it got to a point in my life where I couldn’t do those things anymore, as far as even walking to the mailbox, which is 200 yards from my house.”
Greenwood explained that the real turning point for him to get serious about his weight was a trip to Las Vegas with friends. They decided to try out zip lining, but Greenwood could not participate because he was too heavy for the equipment.
When Greenwood did some research on the gastric sleeve procedure, during which about 80 percent of the stomach is removed, he was told by his insurance company that the surgery would not be covered.
“It was heart wrenching my insurance would not cover the procedure, but I knew I had to do something,” Greenwood said. “I thought to take money out of my 401 (K); I figured that’s no use to anyone if you don’t live long enough to use it.”
Luckily, when Greenwood decided to make his visit to Dr. Howard L. Melton at Sterling Bariatrics, he found out that the procedure would be covered after all. However, people thinking they can have a consultation and schedule the procedure the next month are in for a rude awakening.
“The insurance and doctors had a six-month waiting period before the procedure to go through things like life coaching, meeting with a nutritionist, and a psyche evaluation every month for six months,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood explained that the point of all the pre-op evaluations and diets is not only to get you ready for the actual surgery, but to also ensure that the patient is in a good mindset, is still motivated enough to do it, and is doing it for the right reasons.
“As long as you lose about 5 pounds a month, then you are doing a good job and showing that you are dedicated,” Greenwood said.
Two weeks before the procedure, Greenwood had to go on a high-protein, low-carb diet. Then, three days before the procedure, he had to go on a strictly liquid diet.
“I probably lost 20 pounds on that alone,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood said that he watched a lot of YouTube videos of the procedure, so he did not feel much anxiety or fear beforehand. What came after was the toughest point of the entire process for him.
“Within four hours of the surgery, they have you up and walking,” he said. “The main thing is to stay active, and they want to get your system up and running again. I was a little woozy at first, but did not need to take any pain meds during my recovery.”
There was another week of a liquid diet, then he was able to gradually move to soft food. He didn’t see an immediate change in his weight, but did notice when he was down 20 pounds after the first two weeks.
Greenwood was his heaviest at 335 pounds; after the six months of prep work before the surgery, he was 301 pounds. Now, he weighs in at 230 pounds.
“Now I probably exercise six to eight hours a week,” Greenwood said. “I play pickle ball, and I’ll play that at least three times a week for two hours. I ride my bicycle 25-30 miles a week. I walk and go to the gym. I swim and lift weights.”
“If you want to change your life for the better, you need to have this done,” he said. “It is not difficult, it is not painful, but it will change your life for the better.”
Written by: Alex Dunn