Losing a linebacker helped me win the game

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Losing a linebacker helped me win the game

Like most people, I hate going to the doctor’s office because that means I’m really sick. But my doctor’s visit this week was pure pleasure. In fact, I was so excited about it that I sent the doctor and the office staff a bouquet of flowers as a token of my thanks.

The bouquet was displayed in a football-shaped vase with a matching balloon and a card that read, “Thanks to you, I’ve lost a linebacker and gained a whole new life.”

The flowers were for Dr. Phil Mathis and the staff of Surgery Associates in Tupelo. The reason for my visit was my latest checkup since my surgery in October 1994 which has allowed me to lose a total of 170 pounds so far.

In other words, I’ve lost the equivalent of a hefty adult, who could probably make the school team as a linebacker.

Through a procedure called vertical banded gastroplasty, I was able to do what I could not accomplish through more than a decade of dieting on my own. It was, however, a last chance option.

Several factors had affected my weight – a glandular tumor several years ago, a family history of obesity and years of yo-yo dieting and gaining weight – so my metabolism was zilch. For years, I watched in horror as the scales climbed higher, despite my constant efforts to curb the eating.

Just prior to the surgery, I was more than 200 pounds overweight, with soaring high blood pressure, and I was walking with a cane at times because my knees were no longer able to carry the weight.

As frightening as the prospect of surgery was to me, the thought of living the rest of my life in that condition (if I lived at all) was even more frightening. So, with a lot of prayer, encouragement from friends and excellent care by all the medical personnel involved, I came through the surgery with a positive attitude and something I had not had for a long time – hope.

Vertical banded gastroplasty is an updated version of what most people know as “stomach stapling.” It sounds a lot more horrible than it actually is. During the surgery, a double vertical line of staples is placed across the top portion of the stomach forming a small pouch about the size of a medium egg. In effect, this means the stomach can only hold about two or three bites of solid food at a time. (And, because those few bites fill the stapled area, you feel full as though you’ve eaten a huge meal.)

This does not mean that it is impossible to regain the weight, but it does mean that if you follow the doctor’s orders, such as regular exercise, you stand an excellent chance of keeping it off.

When I returned for my a regular checkup after having lost about 60 pounds, Dr. Mathis joked, “Well, I see you’ve lost the equivalent of a fourth-grader.”

“Yeah, doc,” I said, “but I want to lose a high school linebacker.”

It became a running joke among my friends, who have often greeted me over the past year and a half with, “Well, you’re getting closer to that linebacker.”

The surgery has not been a miracle cure. I’ve worked to make it work, and I would not recommend such a drastic step to anyone who still has other options. But for me, I thank God every day for being given this gift of new-found health.

I’m still several pounds from my goal weight, but after years of sitting on the bench, I’m finally in the game and, with the help of a wonderful team, I’m going for it.

I’ve lost the linebacker. I’ve got the ball. And I’m running for a touchdown.

Brenda Owen is a Daily Journal feature writer.

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