Friday, January 1, 2010

After gastric bypass surgery, couple loses 249 pounds in a year

Chicago, IL
Their daily Starbucks drink of choice was once a Venti Java Chip Frappuccino -- a whopping 600 calories in a cup.

These days, Lorie and Todd Richmond splurge on coffees with Splenda and a dash of half-and-half. But they are more likely to be riding their bikes, shooting hoops with their three kids or shopping for new clothes.

The Chicago Sun-Times featured the Richmonds in a Dec. 22, 2008, story after the couple from northwest Indiana had weight-loss surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center on the same day.

Before the surgery, Lorie weighed 402 pounds, Todd 305.

A year later, Todd is at his goal weight of 207 pounds. He's off cholesterol and blood-pressure medications. Lorie weighs 251 pounds and is confident she can lose another 60 pounds or more to reach her goal.

Together, the two have lost 249 pounds in one year.

"It makes you feel so good that people notice," Lorie said. "For the first time in my life, I don't mind telling people my weight."

The Richmonds' say their quality of life also skyrocketed as their weight decreased.

They vacationed in the Smoky Mountains, hiking and riding roller coasters -- things they couldn't do before.

They bought bikes, and Todd consistently rode about 10 miles every other day throughout the summer. When she started, Lorie could only ride a block before having to stop; by the end of the summer, she took an eight-mile ride.

And when she ran to pick up an errant basketball while shooting baskets with her 7-year-old son, he said words she had never heard before: "I just saw my mom run."

"I almost cried," she said. "I was so happy I could do that with him. It gives me even more drive to keep going."

Dr. Vivek Prachand, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center, performed Lorie's duodenal switch and Todd's gastric bypass.

A duodenal switch involves removing part of the stomach and bypassing much of the small intestine to limit how many calories are absorbed. A gastric bypass shrinks the stomach.

But the surgery alone wouldn't help the Richmonds lose and keep off the weight. They altered their diet and exercise habits -- something they had tried repeatedly in the past but without success.

"You have to recognize the surgery is a tool, it's not a cure," Prachand said. "I only take half the credit for it. You accomplish the other half."

The Richmonds said they were stung by hostile online anonymous critics who said the surgery was "cheating'' and accused the couple of laziness.

Prachand said he has heard all the criticism before, but said they are unfair. He said the surgery is highly effective and corrects multiple medical issues with one procedure.

"What we're dealing with when we're talking about surgery for severe obesity, we're talking about people who are 10 to 15 times heavier than the 10 to 15 pounds all of us have struggled with at one point or another," Prachand said. "Sometimes it's hard to project the added difficulty of that much more."

Beyond the surgery and added exercise, the Richmonds dramatically changed what they ate.

Todd said a year ago, he could "put a buffet out of business."

Now, the couple eat off saucers to help control portions.

They eat small meals consistently throughout the day, including daily breakfast.

And while they haven't abandoned Starbucks completely, they cut out the oversize sweet drinks and other treats -- even though they say they are constantly celebrating.

"This year has been awesome for us," Lorie Richmond said. "There's so much, I want to shout at the rooftops. Life is opening up for us."
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