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In 2010, Ron Garrison, of South Haven, Ind., reached his peak weight of nearly 500 pounds – and not for lack of trying to slim down. For nearly two decades the military veteran had tried the gamut of weight loss approaches, from medically-supervised diets and exercise plans to online schemes promising dramatic results. Nothing worked; he continued to gain weight and, with it, health complications.
With a body mass index of nearly 67, Garrison suffered from type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and more. The former firefighter got to the point he could no longer fit into the gear and had to give up his job. When he joined the Masonic Lodge and saw a photo of himself in a tuxedo, he realized the gravity of his situation for the first time. That same year, despite taking nearly 12 medications to keep his health under control, Garrison was given a startling prognosis – only three years left to live. The father of one decided it was time to consider bariatric surgery.
"I was going to die," Garrison said. "It wasn't a matter of 'if' but 'when.' My son had just been born and I thought, 'I have to be around for him.'"
Garrison began researching surgical options and identified the biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, commonly just referred to as duodenal switch or DS, as his preferred procedure. He turned to the only regional institution that successfully performs such bariatric procedures: The University of Chicago Medicine's Center for the Surgical Treatment of Obesity. To this day, UChicago Medicine is one of just a few institutions that offers DS. The University of Chicago Medicine has pioneered research investigating the procedure and is an international leader in teaching this technique to practicing surgeons.
Everybody's obesity and life circumstances are different. It takes a conversation and collaborative decision-making to pursue the best options.Garrison underwent a comprehensive multidisciplinary evaluation and was found to be an excellent candidate for DS. Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Vivek N. Prachand, MD, performed Garrison's duodenal switch on Oct. 28, 2011. The surgery, combined with significant lifestyle changes, helped Garrison get his weight down to about 195 pounds by 2013 -- a loss of more than half his body mass.
DS is an innovative procedure that first reduces the size of the stomach by more than 75 percent to a narrow tube through a procedure known as sleeve gastrectomy. Food and digestive fluids within the small intestine are then rerouted to decrease appetite and reduce the absorption of some of the calories ingested in the diet, particularly those derived from fat.
Once Garrison's surgical procedure was complete, he began the lifelong journey of adjusting his life to meet the demands of his altered anatomy. He strictly follows a modified low-carbohydrate diet with a strong emphasis on high-protein foods, and he has eliminated carbonated beverages. Additionally, to avoid nutritional deficiencies, Garrison takes several daily vitamin supplements. He also committed to frequent follow-up appointments for several years and a regular exercise regimen.
The level of care goes far beyond the standard doctor-patient relationship. Everyone cares about your success, and they are going to save your life."The level of care goes far beyond the standard doctor-patient relationship. Everyone cares about your success, and they are going to save your life."
"Most people can relate to the major effort involved in losing just 15-20 pounds," Prachand said. "The people we help have 10 times that much weight to lose, which is a whole different ballgame."Often the surgeons and staff wait until patients can show a commitment to lifestyle changes through medically-managed weight loss attempts before moving ahead with surgery. Positive momentum prior to a procedure will help get the patients in a healthy frame of mind and ready to take on new challenges.
Laparoscopic obesity surgery offers the same results as traditional obesity surgery, but with less pain and fewer complications. Patients typically return home two to four days after surgery.Learn more about our weight loss surgery options
Dr. Prachand is an expert in minimally invasive abdominal surgery. He is one of the only surgeons worldwide who regularly performs the laparoscopic duodenal switch for obese patients.See Dr. Prachand's Bio