Bariatric Surgery Patients

Two summers ago, Joe and Tammy would not have been able to fit on their Harley-Davidson motorcycle together. Back then, Joe tipped the scales at 348 and had such terrible sleep apnea that he needed a machine to help him breathe at night. His joints hurt and he grew winded even when walking a flight of stairs.

In her comfortable marriage, Tammy had grown to 250 pounds, which led to acid reflux, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Both knew they needed to lose weight - and at times they did, experiencing that phenomenon known as "yo-yo" dieting.

From time to time, Joe suggested they undergo gastric bypass surgery. His mom, who had the procedure at age 69, was able to regain her energy and stop taking half of her medications. Tammy wasn't ready.

Decision time

That thinking changed when Tammy's doctor advised her to start taking blood pressure medication. "I was only 35 and realized my health would only get worse," she says. Joe's decision was reinforced when he went boating with his sons weeks before the procedure. When it was his turn to kneeboard, Joe was unable to pull himself into a kneeling position. "They had to pull me lying on my stomach," Joe recalls. He was so upset that he refused to go in the water the rest of the season. This summer, Joe found success - and was able to kneeboard successfully for the first time since the early '90s.

That following winter, the couple attended their first information session on bariatric surgery. They opted for the gastric bypass, the same type of procedure that Joe's mother had. They prepared for surgery together and had it just weeks apart: Tammy in July 2007 and Joe in August.

"This was the best thing we could have done for ourselves, our relationship and our family," Tammy says. "It was especially helpful to go through this procedure together because we motivate each other."

Feeling healthier, younger

In the past, Joe and Tammy had enjoyed an "on-the-run" lifestyle, grabbing frozen pizzas and other convenience foods. Now they take the time to prepare healthy meals that focus on fresh fruits and vegetables. "We have rethought our portion sizes and, when we feel full, we stop eating. We also eat more carefully. Eating too fast makes it hard to swallow. Eating too much can be uncomfortable," she says.

Exercise is just as important as their diet. Joe exercises before work, beginning at 3:45 each morning. "I run and do sit-ups and push-ups. I now have more energy than I ever thought possible," he says. "Even after work, I have energy to mow the lawn." Tammy exercises at work by taking advantage of the eight flights of stairs.

Since the surgery, Joe has lost about 190 pounds and Tammy has lost about 110 pounds, and their weight-related health conditions have greatly improved. At 40 and 37 respectively, Joe and Tammy actually feel younger than their years.

As they celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary, the couple now enjoys "date night" every Tuesday by going out for dinner on the Harley. "But instead of ordering burgers, we eat a salad or split an entree," Tammy explains.

"I'm so happy we have our lives back," she continues. "It's the greatest feeling to be able to sit comfortably on an airplane, or get on an amusement park ride - the little things that most people take for granted."