It was the classic summer trip. Chris Brown, his wife Bambi, and their children were at the Six Flags theme park in Missouri. They were waiting in a long line for a popular ride and, two hours later, they were finally getting in.
Except Chris didn’t fit.
Overweight since tenth grade, Chris had known for years he should lose weight. He owned a roofing company and couldn’t do some parts of the job. He wanted to coach his son’s hockey team and couldn’t get on skates. It was time for a change.
A family friend and gastric surgeon told Chris about a minimally-invasive procedure called a gastric sleeve, during which four to six small incisions are made into the patient’s abdomen. Using laparoscopic instruments, the surgeon removes 80 percent of the stomach. The remaining portion, shaped like a banana or “sleeve,” stays connected to the esophagus and small intestines. This smaller stomach causes patients to feel full sooner and less hungry because fewer hunger-causing hormones are secreted.
Chris was a patient at a nearby facility, where he learned he was a candidate for the gastric sleeve procedure. However, after he and Bambi were married and he joined her health insurance, she insisted he transfer to Lakewood.
“I didn’t want him going anywhere else,” Bambi explained. “I’m a patient at Lakewood and everyone has been incredible supporters of my health. If Chris was going to do the procedure, I wanted him at a place that was caring.”
Chris and Bambi attended a free seminar at which Lakewood general surgeon, Dr. Jay Lenz, explained the surgery. Before the procedure, Chris was required to work with Jessica Carter, Lakewood’s dietitian, certified diabetes instructor and bariatric program coordinator, for at least six months to discuss nutrition goals and making healthier choices. These visits help prepare patients for life after surgery and kick-start their weight loss journey.
“Jessica is so realistic and supportive,’” said Bambi. “It’s all about gradual change. For example, make eggs with veggies instead of cheese. Then substitute water for pop.” By the procedure date, Chris had lost 35 pounds.
After the procedure, Chris stayed in the hospital for two nights to ensure his pain was manageable before going home. He was on a liquid diet for two weeks and then slowly introduced small amounts of food to determine what he could tolerate.
“My recovery wasn’t uncomfortable, it was just weird!” he said. “After the surgery, I could only eat about three tablespoons of something and then I felt like I just walked out of the China Buffet! It was crazy.”
It’s been almost a year since Chris had the gastric sleeve procedure. He can eat any typical foods and has lost a total of 110 pounds. His goal is to lose 20 more. “It’s important to have people around who support you,” he said. “Bambi has been my rock. I don’t give her enough credit for everything she’s done.”
The life changes for Chris have been tremendous. “I got back on hockey skates and I coach my son’s team. I don’t use a sleep apnea machine anymore. I have to wear my wife’s belts – she’s not happy about that!” he laughed. “I even had to get a wedding ring three sizes smaller!”
Chris’ abilities on the job have changed too. “Everyone I work with has been amazing. And now the roof harnesses fit me! One time I had to go on a steep, high roof and I was the first one up. That wouldn’t have happened a year ago.”
Bambi looks forward to going back to an amusement park with the family. “The moment when Chris can get on the rides with us…that will be huge.”
Chris wants to be the “poster boy” for the gastric sleeve procedure. “I want to tell everyone about it,” he said. “When I see people who are overweight, I want to tell them there’s a better way to live! But how do I do that without making them feel bad? That’s why I wanted to be interviewed for this article.”
He continued, “It was the best thing I ever did. Even if you’re thinking about it a little bit, go learn more about it. Don’t waste another second. Just do it.”
If you are interested in pursuing bariatric surgery, or want to learn more, you can visit our website at lakewoodhealthsystem.com to watch our video informational series. We also invite you to attend one of our free informational seminars. For information on dates, times and locations, please contact us at 218-894-8623.