Cutlerville Couple loses nearly 500 pounds after surgery Incentive for gastric bypass surgery was health after man suffered stroke

By Sue Thoms

The Grand Rapids Press

CUTLERVILLE, Mich. (AP) -- Amy Collins says her husband, Roderic, is "half the man" he once was, but she isn't complaining.

After all, she is not quite the woman she once was, either.

In a little more than a year, the Cutlerville couple has lost nearly 500 pounds, dropping from a combined weight of 833 pounds to 343.

"We're doing pretty well," said Roderic, 43. "We couldn't be happier with the results."

"I feel great," said Amy, 45. "I never realized how bad I felt until I felt good."

For the Collinses, who underwent gastric bypass surgery, 2010 was a year filled with firsts -- and "first in a long time" events. They rode the roller coasters at Cedar Point with their kids, had energy to run up and down stairs, played 54 holes of golf in a day (Roderic) and shopped in the juniors section (Amy).

But the real incentive for surgery was not fashion or fun. It was their health.

Roderic, a Berger car salesman, suffered a stroke in November 2008, followed by a second, smaller stroke.

"His kidneys started to fail; his liver started to fail," said Amy, an operations manager for an investment company. "The doctor said if he didn't do something, he wouldn't live to see next year."

When Roderic first considered weight-loss surgery, Amy opposed it because she worried about complications. But her husband, like her, had tried a variety of diet programs and had never been able to sustain his weight loss. A former high school and college football player, Roderic had been overweight since his 20s.

"I had seen him struggle for years with his weight, and I didn't want to lose him," Amy said.

At Saint Mary's Health Care, Roderic looked at four options for bariatric surgery and chose the duodenal switch. The stomach is reduced in size to a skinny tube, or sleeve, and is rerouted to bypass all but about 3 feet of the 20-foot small intestine.

It typically produces the fastest weight loss and the best long-term success rate, said Cathy Mooney, a bariatric nurse at Saint Mary's. Because the procedure causes malabsorption of nutrients, patients must make sure to eat plenty of protein and take vitamin supplements for the rest of their lives, she said.

And if patients eat too much high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods, the effects aren't pleasant. "They'll have more bowel movements, loose stools," Mooney said. "Or really bad-smelling gas."

After his operation, Roderic took to the diet-and-vitamin regimen with a dedication that surprised his wife. Amy began to consider bariatric surgery for herself, even though she did not experience the same health problems as her husband -- except for high blood pressure. Overweight since the age of 10, she worried the excess weight would take a toll eventually.

Six weeks after her husband's surgery, Amy underwent the same operation.

With smaller stomachs, Amy and Roderic now eat small, frequent meals with plenty of protein and keep "junk carbohydrates" to a minimum, Amy said.

"I was a meat-and-bread kind of guy," Roderic said. "Now, I'm more of a meat guy."

Both have seen dramatic results.

Roderic, who is nearly 6 feet tall, once weighed 468 pounds; he now weights 187. His waist has dropped from 68 inches to 34.

Amy, who is 5 feet 7 inches, has dropped from 365 pounds to 158. She once wore a size 22/24; she now wears an 8 or 10.

Most of the cost of the Collinses' surgery was covered by their Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance. Mooney said that is common: Most insurance companies cover the procedure, and Medicare covers 80 percent. For those who don't have coverage, the hospital charges a flat fee for the operation, preparation and follow-up care. It ranges from $14,000 to $21,000, depending on the method chosen.

Although she enjoys shopping for clothes in the junior department now, Amy said she did not undergo surgery because she had body-image issues. A few years ago, she started a local group on for "big, beautiful women and the men who love them."

"I wasn't this miserable overweight person who didn't leave the house," she said. "I didn't dress sloppy. I always wore cute clothes."

In fact, she think she looks older since she lost weight because when she was heavier, wrinkles didn't show.

But she and Roderic, who were married in 2006, say the benefits are worth it. Amy no longer needs medicine to control her blood pressure, and Roderic has gone from taking seven daily medications to just one.

They also enjoy having more energy and being able to do more things with their children, Caitlan, 17, Bailee 10, and Shane 9.

"Just feeling better and knowing I'm going to be here for my family. That's the main thing for me," Roderic said.

Published: Wed, Jan 19, 2011


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