NewStart success stories, the Patranellas, share a workout routine together.For over 15 years, Alecia and Jason Patranella tried everything to lose weight, including fad diet after fad diet, without success. It was an embarrassing moment at a Major League Baseball game that ultimately motivated the Huntsville, Texas, couple to take definitive action.

“It was the end of the summer 2022, and we were the heaviest we’d ever been,” recalls Alecia. “We took the kids to Dollar Dog Night at the Astros game at Minute Maid Park. I went to the ladies room with my cousin, and the bathroom stalls were so small, I couldn’t comfortably fit. It was humiliating. I knew something had to change.”

During the drive home, Alecia quietly researched surgical weight loss options. Over the next few days, she researched surgeons and called her insurance company for coverage information. Only then did she tell Jason what she intended to do.

“When I told Jason, he said, ‘If you’re doing it, I’m doing it, too,” she says.

With 18 years of marriage and two kids under their belts, Jason and Alecia, then 43 years old, had gained weight. One of the biggest culprits, they say, was Jason’s intense work schedule. A railroad engineer, he is on call 24/7. When he receives a call, he works 12 to 18 hours straight, is off for 18 hours then is on again for another 12 to 18 hours. And he never knows when he’ll receive a call.

“We let ourselves go for over 15 years,” says Alecia. “But it was hard to for us to get into a routine with each other to do anything positive for ourselves.”

Alecia’s online research led her to Jason Balette, MD, a bariatric surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center. Dr. Balette is medical director for weight loss surgery and chief of surgery at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands.

When they first saw Dr. Balette, Jason and Alecia both had obesity-related health problems, called comorbidities—high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, sleep apnea and depression. Jason, who was also prediabetic, says he had extremely high blood pressure, and his cholesterol levels were so out of range they were “undetectable.” Alecia also suffered from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal condition that is a leading cause of infertility among women affected by obesity.

After evaluating the couple, Dr. Balette confirmed that both were candidates for bariatric weight loss surgery. ”To qualify for weight loss surgery, an individual should have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, or be more than 100 pounds overweight,” he says. “But if a person has one or more obesity-related comorbidities, they are a candidate with a BMI of 35 or more.”

After discussing the couple’s surgical weight loss options and associated benefits and risks, Dr. Balette and the Patranellas agreed that the best fit for Jason and Alecia would be a minimally invasive procedure called gastric sleeve surgery (also called sleeve gastrectomy), which Dr. Balette describes as “a good procedure in terms of both results and risk.”

Alecia admits she was nervous about the surgery. “My biggest fear about having elective surgery was not being there for my kids, if something were to happen to me. But when I met with Dr. Balette, he told me, ‘For you, this surgery is not elective,’ meaning by being so significantly overweight, I was putting my health in serious jeopardy. That stopped me in my tracks,” says Alecia.

NewStart success stories, the Patranellas, share a moment with their children.The Patranellas’ surgeries, which took place at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands, were staggered six weeks apart so that one of them could take care of their kids, ages 3 and 10 at the time, while the other recovered. During the one-hour procedure, Dr. Balette surgically removed about two-thirds of the stomach then stapled (with surgical staples) the remaining, smaller stomach to form a sleeve, or tube, shaped like a banana. The smaller stomach fills quickly, which helps them feel satisfied with less food. Both patients spent the night after their procedure in the hospital and went home the next day.

As participants in the Memorial Hermann NewStart Surgical Weight Loss Program™, Jason and Alecia received counseling and support throughout the process, from their first visit with Dr. Balette to their actual surgeries and recovery. As part of the program, they also received nutritional education and counseling.

For a while, the couple chose not to share their weight loss journey with anyone but their closest friends and family members. “We were tired of trying and failing,” says Alecia. “This time, we didn’t want to let people know until we had actually succeeded.”

And succeed they did. Since their surgeries, Alecia has lost 119 pounds, and Jason has lost 67 pounds. More importantly, they have regained their health, ridding themselves of their obesity-related health conditions. And they now have a tool they can use to maintain their health for the rest of their lives.

“This has changed our lives,” says Alecia. “We feel so free. And we can help our kids have a better relationship with food, too. When Jason and I do our home workouts, our kids want to do the workouts with us.”

“We have really changed the way we look at food and the way we look at our bodies,” says Jason. “It has opened up so many doors for us. It’s given us confidence.”

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