As a high school student in Dickinson, Doug McHenry was your average athlete.
He was tight end and linebacker on the football team, and he was also on the wrestling team. At 170 pounds, McHenry was athletic.
But as the years began to pass, and McHenry entered his 20s, his 30s, and then his 40s, he began to lose control of his weight.
James C. Falcon/MDN - - Dr. Brent Bruderer, left, a bariatric surgeon with Medcenter One, spoke Wednesday to a group interested in weight-loss surgeries. Doug McHenry, right, was one of his patients.
Six years ago, he lost 80 pounds. But then he gained it back, as well as an extra 30 to 40 pounds.
"Things just add up over time and you get to a point where it's 'Holy smokes, I'd better do something,'" he said.
McHenry had started to develop high blood pressure, he had a sleep apnea test scheduled, and he knew that diabetes wasn't too far away, given his family history.
In May of 2010, the former high school athlete was 330 pounds when he finally decided to go through with a gastric bypass.
A gastric bypass is one of the many forms of weight-loss surgeries that can be performed. At a weight loss program meeting held Wednesday at the Grand International, Dr. Brent Bruderer, a bariatric surgeon with Medcenter One, explained the reasons why weight loss surgeries, such as gastric bypass, are needed and who is truly in need.
The primary purpose of surgeries, such as gastric bypass, Lap-Bands and a sleeve gastrectomy, are to improve or prevent serious medical conditions that a person can suffer from, Bruderer said. Reasons of a cosmetic nature, as well as economic or perhaps of a psychological nature, are secondary, he added.
These surgeries are not for those who want to lose some 30-odd pounds, Bruderer said. Instead, they are recommended for people who are at least 100 pounds overweight and have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 40. The BMI was developed by insurance companies to determine insurance predictions of medical risks, based on the height and weight of a person.
"Forty is the magic number," Bruderer said, noting that at a BMI of 40, a person is considered to be morbidly obese, meaning that medical problems arise and, at that time, some insurance companies may not issue coverage; if they do, the premium could be doubled.
Standing at five feet and nine inches and weighing 330 pounds, McHenry had a BMI of 49.
Bruderer noted that would-be patients need to go through a battery of tests, such as a psychological evaluation to ensure that they are mentally competent and are able to comply with post-surgery requirements. They also must face and squelch certain dependencies drug, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine all before getting approval from their insurance companies. Patients also should be between the ages of 18 and 65, although for Lap-Bands, the age range maximum was raised to 70; McHenry was 43 years old.
The next month, he went through with gastric bypass surgery with Bruderer at the helm "mostly to keep weight off and to get some things under control eating habits, things like that."
How it works
With gastric bypass, part of the stomach is split off into a pouch the size of an egg in order to restrict how much food can be eaten comfortably. With a Lap-Band surgery, a ring is used to separate the stomach so that there is a pouch, much like the one involved in a gastric bypass. However, the Lap-Band is adjustable based on eating and weight-loss preferences. A sleeve gastrectomy is performed when most of the stomach is cut out to the point that it changes size, from about a football to a foot-long hot dog. This kind of surgery is non-reversible.
With a gastric bypass, a person can expect to lose between 50 to 80 percent of their excess weight about one year after the surgery; patients can expect to lose between 40 to 60 percent of their excess weight through a Lap-Band. Intermediate weight loss is expected with a sleeve gastrectomy, Bruderer said.
"Your body tells you what you can and can't eat," McHenry said.
He used to eat salad, but now he eats two bites and he is full.
"The surgery is the minor part," he said. "It gets things started."
Bruderer said that a person's lifestyle, specifically their eating habits, do change post-surgery and that after one to two years, depending on the method of surgery, a person will begin to lose most, if not all, of their excess weight.
Bringing it down, keeping it off
According to the BMI chart, a person's ideal weight corresponds with a BMI of 25. In McHenry's case, that would be 169 pounds. Post-surgery, McHenry has lost about 130 pounds, bringing him down to around 195 pounds, or a BMI of 29.
Since the surgery, McHenry explained that he has become more active.
"I was on the verge of having high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and all of that went away," he said.
McHenry began to start walking for exercise, so much that he would walk up to four miles a day. Then, he began running.
Now, McHenry has embraced athletics again in the form of running marathons. His sister, who lives in Washington state, got him involved in the idea, but then she got out of shape, he said. McHenry told her that if she got in shape, he would run the Eugene (Ore.) Marathon with her. Everything was set, until a month before when she hurt her foot. While she was unable to participate, McHenry went to Oregon and ran a half-marathon 13.1 miles in an hour and 52 minutes.
He was set to run again this past September, but because of the flooding of the Souris River, McHenry was unable to make it. He was helping friends who were displaced.
"I have four lined up for next year," he said optimistically. "I've been having knee problems, so I don't know how that's going to go."
He noted that his goal is to run in four marathons, including a Minot marathon in April, as well as marathons in Bismarck, Fargo and Montana.
For more information on bariatric surgery, Bruderer or his colleague, Dr. Michael Schmit, can be reached at 323-5530. There is also information available at: (http://bit.ly/d6breN).