Before he had bariatric (weight loss) surgery, Brad Henley’s two children asked to go to Disney World. “I explained to them that it’s not worth it; it’s too expensive,” the 35-year-old Waukesha financial industry assistant recalled. The truth was, he was too embarrassed to make that trip.
“I wouldn’t have fit on the airplane. I couldn’t have walked around the park. I wouldn’t have fit on any of the rides,” he said. “I couldn’t take my kids to Disney World.”
That picture changed in April 2011, when Brad had laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery through the Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Bariatric Surgery Program, part of the Comprehensive Weight Loss Center. Eleven months later, Brad had lost 220 lbs. and fulfilled his family’s dream by taking them all to Disney World.
“Instead of just getting through it,” Brad said, “life is now worth living.”
Matthew Goldblatt, MD, FACS, Medical College of Wisconsin surgeon, performed Brad’s surgery. Dr. Goldblatt, along with Medical College of Wisconsin surgeons James Wallace, MD, PhD, (the program’s medical director) and Jon Gould, MD, offer all types of bariatric surgery, including the gastric sleeve procedure.
“We offer minimally invasive options whenever possible,” Dr. Goldblatt said. “In Brad’s case, there were just six small incisions, and we performed the surgery using a camera and small instruments. We decreased the size of his stomach, so the amount of food he can take in is dramatically reduced.”
Brad spent just two days in the hospital. Typically laparoscopic gastric bypass patients spend only 1-2 days in the hospital.
Having weighed 386 pounds at his heaviest, Brad is now down to about 168 pounds. But the numbers only tell part of the story. He wanted to lose weight to slow down his kidney disease. Diagnosed several years ago with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis or FSGS, Brad’s kidneys were not filtering as they should. The steroids he took to treat the FSGS made him hungry all the time, which contributed to his weight problem. Because of his weight, Brad also suffered from sleep apnea, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, gout and arthritis in his ankle. Plus, he smoked.
Brad’s doctor told him weight loss might reduce the stress on his organs, giving his kidneys an opportunity to last longer, so Brad looked into gastric bypass surgery. His doctor recommended Froedtert & The Medical College for the procedure.
“Brad was starting to get sick from the diseases associated with obesity. That’s one of the advantages of coming here,” Dr. Goldblatt explained. “We have lung, kidney and heart doctors who can help with patients who are having other serious health issues related to obesity. However, ideally the surgery is provided to patients before they develop these other issues.”
He added that more people are considering weight loss surgery sooner because of diabetes, hoping to cure or avoid developing it, as recent studies have demonstrated. “One misconception is that the surgery is incredibly dangerous,” Dr. Goldblatt said. “People are starting to understand that living with diabetes and other diseases can be more dangerous than bariatric surgery.”
Brad quit smoking before surgery and worked hard after the procedure, walking several times during the day and working out again later in the day. He also followed his new diet and exercise regimen religiously. “I decided if I’m supposed to do 40 or 60 minutes of exercise a day, four hours would be better,” Brad said.
Today, he no longer suffers from the chronic conditions he had when he was obese, including kidney disease. But, Brad’s weight loss has not been easy. He has faced and overcome many challenges. “It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses,” he said.
“The bariatric surgery patients I’ve met all say it was the hardest thing they’ve ever done,” Dr. Goldblatt added. “The surgery makes it easier to lose weight, but it’s still a very difficult change to make. Brad used this as a catapult to help him lose weight. He really has been a model patient.”
Brad admits he couldn’t have done it alone. He’s grateful for the care and support he received from Bariatric Surgery Program physicians and staff, calling the surgeons “amazing” and the nurses “incredible.” He credits his wife with supporting him through it all, along with big doses of prayer. “The surgery worked, but the reason it worked was that God let it work for me,” he said.
So much has changed for Brad since his weight-loss surgery. He went from someone who only wore slip-on shoes because he couldn’t reach his feet, to a man who is now participating in half-marathons. His worst habit was fast food, eating quantities he can’t even fathom today. “Now, I walk with my children while we talk about their day at school, instead of shushing them so I can hear the TV. Being out in the world is so much more fun.”