During that time, I could not workout, and of course as I got older my body changed and I gained weight, lots of it. I tried so many weight loss gimmicks. One of the best was Nutrisystem, but it was very expensive. My primary doctor recommended a drug that I would have to inject into my stomach once a day. It was also extremely expensive, and my insurance company only paid for three months.
People are cruel to those overweight. My wife and I were in a supermarket, and a former law enforcement officer with whom I worked with back in the 1980’s came up to me and patted my stomach and asked when I was giving birth. I also had a current co-worker say to me that I was getting fatter by the day. I never asked for their opinions but people seem to think it’s okay to point out the obvious that I see in the mirror daily.
April 23, 2016, I suffered the “Widow Marker Heart Attack”, https://thelinknews.net/2016/06/17/mmc-saved-my-life/ and Monmouth Medical Center saved my life. So, with so much weighing on me and wanting to live a long healthy life, I knew that the staff at MMC could help me once again. So, after the embarrassing Legoland incident, I called my two friends Bill Arnold, President and CEO of RWJBarnabas Health Southern, and Eric Carney, President and CEO of Monmouth Medical Center. During our conversation I stated that I wanted to undergo bariatric surgery. That is when they connected me with a young woman who would help me change my life.
Jennifer Lord is nurse who works within the bariatric unit and has literally been my savior. The end of September I had a meeting with Lord and Dr. Michael Jaronczyk, MD, FACS, at the new RWJBarnabas office building at Monmouth Mall. There are several procedures that could be done, so I did my research before the meeting and thought the bariatric sleeve would best fit my condition. That is where the surgeon removes 80% of your stomach, leaving behind a tubular, sleeve, about the size of a banana. Jaronczyk agreed, and that was the start of a long four-month journey.
Diane Gordan, Insurance Advisor for Monmouth Medical Center, then worked with my insurance company and made sure everything was covered. The biggest requirement for the surgery is that you must see a registered dietitian. Mine was Victoria Kleyner, RDN, who would put me on a new healthy diet and helping me change my mental view of food and eating. One of the rules was I must lose weight before surgery, stop smoking cigars, and give up caffeinated drinks and sugar.
Medically, I had to undergo extensive test; psychological, ultrasound of the abdomen, upper GI clearance, cardiac, pulmonary, endocrine, vascular and a sleep study. Once all those test were completed and I had my four months of visits with Kleyner and attending support groups that MMC hosted. During the support meetings I heard people who had some issues after surgery where if they drank quickly or ate quickly they would vomit. Others stated foods that they loved before surgery, now they disliked.
Personally, I had waited until the possible last moment to tell my family of the surgery. My wife, who for years has been trying to help me lose weight, was very supportive of my decision. And for someone who is undertaking a lifestyle change, having support is so needed.
My last pre-op visit with Kleyner I weighed in at 330 pounds, my operation was scheduled for February 10, 2023. The day of surgery I had to be at Monmouth Medical at 5:45 am as I was scheduled for 7:30. Jaronczyk came in and spoke to my wife and I and had a great bedside manner. “When I first met Walter, I knew right away that he had the right mindset to undergo a bariatric procedure,” said Jaronczyk. The surgery took two hours, and I woke up in recovery with a nurse sitting at my side feeding me ice chips.
Procedure requires hospitalization, and they encourage patients to start walking as soon as possible to break up the gas. Before getting into bed, I did about 10 laps around the floor. I felt no pain. “Walter did so well that he was discharged early for good behavior,” said Jaronczyk.
From February 10 to March 3, I now weigh 290 pounds, down 40 pounds since surgery and 60 since Christmas. At my first follow-up with Jaronczyk I shook his hand and thanked him. “When patients thank me for my hard work, I remind them that their months of hard work easily overshadows my hours of hard work. This is a team effort and my patients are part of the team,” added Jaronczyk.
“Bariatric surgery is our strongest weapons against not only obesity, but a vast array of deadly medical diseases. My main goal for my patients is to live long healthy happy lives,” said Jaronczyk. One of those diseases is diabetes. “I recall being taught in school that diabetes cannot be cured and it is one of the most dangerous diseases out there. Now, we have found a cure with bariatric surgery.”
In the United States it is estimated that 150,000 gastric sleeve operations are performed yearly. “Using the most up to date technology, such as Titan stapler, has lessened the amount of anesthesia needed for patients and keeps the procedures very safe,” said Jaronczyk.
Another benefit of the surgery is that all the test conducted showed that my only medical issue was being overweight. As of the writing of this story, I am much more energetic and other issues that I had have vanished.
In January I was seeing Dr. David LaPorta for heel pain, that had started in September. Dr. LaPorta was going to schedule a procedure for me and I told him great, it will be done before my bariatric surgery. He immediately canceled my procedure and said wait until you lose the weight, the pain will disappear. He was right, two weeks after the sleeve, I can walk and even run.
My taste has changed, and I have no desire to eat, but the program requires strict nutritional intake and exercise. And for the first time in over two decades, I am going to the gym and enjoying the workouts. My goal is to get down to 200-220 pounds, the same weight I was when on the USA Karate Team, and take my granddaughters back to Legoland and get on that ride!