Losing for love

Patient Stories, Topics
Mary and Damon

It was the little things that were really starting to get to Mary.

Describing herself as morbidly obese since the age of 10, 48-year old Mary McInnes had lived with sleep apnea, shortness of breath and fatigue for years. But the "little things" of shopping in stores or walking up the stairs without spilling a cup of coffee was a life Mary never knew.

This was a sentiment shared with her husband, Damon, 53, also obese, who had to ask himself, "Can I do this as a heavy person?" when trying any new activity. At their heaviest, Damon reached 433 pounds, Mary at 463.

Tired of having weight dictate large parts of their lives, the husband-wife team made the decision to have bariatric surgery together at the Bariatric Surgery Institute at McLaren Macomb.

Damon and Mary on their wedding day

"This life is a gift," Mary said. "And we wanted to take advantage of it."

Their journey started at Damon's routine visit with his family doctor. Suffering high blood pressure, cholesterol and sleep apnea, he was asked by his physician how many morbidly obese 65- to 70-year-olds he sees walking around.

"He said I would be lucky to make it to 62 in my current state," Damon said.

Damon shared the sobering news with a distraught Mary. The couple had met only a few years ago. They quickly married and lovingly looked forward to their lives together. But that was now in jeopardy.

They had both visited McLaren Macomb before and had seen signs for the Bariatric Surgery Institute and decided to attend one of its regular informational seminars in March 2015.

By the summer, they were ready for surgery. Mary first, in May at a starting weight of 351 pounds. Damon followed three weeks later in June, starting at 370 pounds.

They both received the Roux-en-Y, performed by Dr. Carl Pesta, surgeon and medical director of the Bariatric Surgery Institute. A true gastric bypass, the stomach is reduced in size-to reach fullness sooner-and connected directly to the middle portion of the small intestine, bypassing large portions of the stomach and digestive tract, allowing for reduced caloric absorption.

"By making the stomach smaller, this approach allows the patient to feel full quicker, avoiding over-eating," said Dr. Pesta, "and prioritizing healthy, nutritional food choices. Mary and Damon were very serious about getting healthier. They followed the program and are very successful."

Within two weeks, the medications Damon had been on for more than a decade for cholesterol, blood pressure and other weight-related conditions were no longer needed.

Now, he is down to 230 pounds and living a more active lifestyle than ever before.

Mary is now 168 pounds, a weight she hasn't been at since age 10. "I'm healthier now than when I was in high school," she said.

In the fall of 2016, she competed in-and finished-a 5K and half-marathon on back-to-back days. "I barely had words," said Mary, who used to be in pain after walking a quarter mile.

Damon now takes regular bike trips of 10 to 12 miles with ease and enjoys kayaking during the summer, a nearly impossible activity in his previous condition.

The couple credit their success with compliance to the program. They get regular exercise, eat proper portions and get the right amount of proteins, vegetables and vitamins, and also regularly attend support group meetings to share their story with the hope of helping others.

"It's the everyday things, everyday living that morbid obesity does not allow you to do," Mary said. "Now you have your life back."

To learn more about the Bariatric Surgery Institute at McLaren Macomb, visit mclaren.org/macombbariatrics.