When Steve began considering weight loss surgery at the age of 56, he was a Type II diabetic with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and unbearable pain in his knee joints. In addition to medications for these conditions, he was taking a diuretic to reduce the swelling in his legs.
"When I say I weighed 420 pounds, I'm only estimating," he said. "I had no way of weighing myself. I was so heavy that I couldn't stand for longer than five minutes without getting terrific pain in my knees."
Steve had tried every diet available. "You name it, I've tried it. Each diet worked to some extent but as soon as I'd go off the diet and return to my normal routine, I'd put the weight back on; and then some. I was born overweight and had spent my life yo-yoing up and down, but as I advanced in age, I just couldn't get the weight off. I kept growing and growing."
The surgery has really changed my life... it's allowed me to become more active. I joined a skeet league and got involved in things I hadn't been able to do in more than 20 years.
When Steve began researching weight-loss surgery in January 2003, he was considering a roux-en-y gastric bypass. After reading about adjustable gastric banding, he decided it was the right procedure for him. "I wasn't a big sweet eater," he said. "I was a binge eater. I'd eat two or three servings. So gastric banding seemed to make more sense for me."
Designed to restrict and reduce food intake without interfering with the body's digestive process, gastric banding (called lap band) creates a pouch with a narrow passage into the stomach. The pouch can hold only a small amount of food, usually just an ounce initially. The narrow passage slows the emptying of food into the rest of the stomach, creating a feeling of fullness after eating that lasts for a longer period of time.
In the spring of that year, Steve went to his first seminar on weight-loss surgery. "I listened to the surgeons. I listened to the testimonials. I went to a couple more seminars at different hospitals and finally ended up at one given by Dr. Erik Wilson, a bariatric surgeon at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. I liked him."
Steve began the physical and psychological testing required to determine whether he was a candidate for bariatric surgery. "I was more comfortable with gastric banding," he said. "It wasn't as drastic as a gastric bypass. I thought that if it didn't work out, I could reverse it."
But it did work out. In fact, during his first two years after adjustable gastric banding, Steve lost 220 pounds. While he's still a diabetic, he no longer has to take medication for the disease, which he controls with his diet. He's also off the diuretics and blood pressure medication.
"The surgery has really changed my life," he said. "It's allowed me to become more active. I joined a skeet league and got involved in things I hadn't been able to do in more than 20 years." He also joined a gym, an entirely new experience for him.
"Gastric banding was perfect for me. It does a great job of helping me control what I eat, which is exactly what I needed. I'm happy I did it. The banding is an excellent tool. It helps teach me how much I can eat and keeps me from exceeding that amount."