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Bariatric surgery, lifestyle changes supercharge man's massive weight loss

  • Published
  • By Sean Bowlin
  • 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Mike Porter, 12th Force Support Squadron assistant lodging manager, is about half the man he used to be.

His weight reduction is due in large part to an Air Force bariatric surgery program, plus eating healthy, weightlifting and running. Surgery changed the retired master sergeant's life.

"I'd been trying to lose weight for about four years," said Mr. Porter, who's shrunk from a peak of 334 pounds and a 46-inch waist down to 198 pounds with a 34-inch waist. "Nothing was working. I'd lose five pounds, just to gain back 10."

He was doing aerobic exercises at the Rambler Fitness Center, but his diet, the missing link, was killing him. He thought he could eat whatever he wanted, workout and lose.

"I was just spinning my wheels," he said. "My eating habits were the worst. I'd eat a nine-piece bucket of fried chicken and drink eight sodas a day. I was too heavy to run."

After a Sunday school session in which he told classmates his lack of self-discipline was hurting him, he asked for help.

"I used to think when I walked down the street, people would view me as fat and disapprove of my appearance. That's the image of myself that I had in my mind," he explained. "So, I got frustrated. I asked myself, 'Does God really care?' And I went to church and discussed my battle with my weight with others in the group."

The next day, he found a pamphlet concerning the Air Force's bariatric surgery program on his desk, and later watched a movie about the surgery. The movie described two prerequisites for the program were the prohibition of caffeine and soda.

"I drank my last Coke that day," Mr. Porter said.

Up next was a psychological test and a physical, where he found out his heart was okay. But his blood pressure read hypertension, his cholesterol numbers were high and Type II diabetes was about to set in. His physicians studied his sleep patterns and diagnosed him with sleep apnea.

With all of those weight-induced issues, it was no surprise to Mr. Porter that he was approved for the bariatric surgery at Wilford Hall Medical Center located nearby at Lackland Air Force Base.

"My doctors told me that a gastric bypass couldn't be used as a total solution for weight loss," Mr. Porter said. "Instead, it would merely be a tool to help me jump-start my weight loss. In the meantime, I had to learn how to eat healthy, fist-sized portioned meals five times a day, run and lift weights."

"The procedure requires a lot of work-up prior to the surgery," said Maj. (Dr.) Richard Peterson, WHMC chief of bariatric and advanced laparoscopic surgery. "Patients are required to have attempted, at minimum, six months of a supervised weight loss program. All patients undergo extensive testing, including sleep studies, cardiac risk stratification, psychological evaluation, laboratory studies and evaluation by the treating surgeon. Once patients complete this they are explained all the risks of surgery and undergo a two-week high protein, low carbohydrate liquid diet before their surgical procedure."

Major Peterson said in 99 percent of patients, the surgery is done laparoscopically, with small incisions and a camera. Patients are required to then stay in the hospital for two days before returning home where they recuperate for two weeks.

"Two weeks after my surgery, I picked up running at the Rambler Fitness Center, building up to run the Carraba's Half-Marathon," Mr. Porter said. "I did it in 2:38. Now I'm running 10-minute, 30-second miles. I told my boss, Terrye Heagerty, my goal was to do the Rambler 120 in 2009. I did it.

"So many people don't recognize me," he continued. "I feel better, have more confidence and am validated more by others."

Today, Mr. Porter's cholesterol numbers are down to 151. The days of eating fried chicken and chocolate candy are no longer options for repast. He meets with a support group for bariatric surgery patients and eats boneless, skinless chicken breasts and tuna.

"All told, I eat about 90 grams of protein a day," Mr. Porter said.

"I have no regrets -- none at all," Mr. Porter said. "I've been given a second chance at health and I don't want to blow it. I'm 54 years old and can't wait to get to the gym. Sometimes I have so much energy it's unbelievable."

His doctor has noticed the changes too.

"Mike is one of our star patients and his success is well deserved," Major Peterson said. "What stands out about him is his determination, motivation and adherence to the principles of a post bariatric lifestyle. By virtue of his success, he's one of our best recruiting assets - and is an educator for all bariatric patients. It's because he knows the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed after surgery."

For more information about the bariatric surgery clinic at Wilford Hall Medical Center, call 210-292- 4303.