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Patient Story: Chuck, Weight Loss Surgery

My wife loved me for who I was, but I just couldn’t live that way anymore. I was too fat. I hate to say that, but it’s true.

Chuck Uglietta, 34, of Peabody, MA, was a pretty happy guy on the morning of September 27, 2008. Besides being a popular assistant coach for the Saugus High School boys and girls golf teams and a disc jockey in a thriving wedding business, Chuck was about to get married to his longtime sweetheart, Jennifer.

But, despite that happiness, it was hard for Chuck to ignore that he wasn’t healthy that day and hadn’t been for a long time. He weighed 527 pounds.

“I still have the vest that I wore on my wedding day. It was a 6X,” says Chuck. “My tuxedo pants were a 72. My jacket was a 78. My wife loved me for who I was, but I just couldn’t live that way anymore. I was too fat. I hate to say that, but it’s true.”

After pondering weight loss surgery for a long time, Chuck finally reached out to Scott Shikora, MD, FACS, Director of the Center Weight Management and Wellness, for help at the end of 2011. Several months later, on February 28, 2012, Chuck underwent a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that reduces the stomach’s volume by about 60-80 percent. Now, less than one year after the surgery, Chuck is summoning folks onto the dance floor and swinging the golf club at 261 pounds, less than half of his peak weight – and he isn’t done yet.

A Lifetime Struggle

Dealing with obesity was a mental and physical struggle for nearly his entire life.

“I was always active, but I was always a big kid,” says Chuck, who grew up in Saugus. “There were a lot of causes – eating out of boredom, eating out of depression, dealing with being picked on my whole life. Food was always that go-to support.”

Chuck tried over and over to lose weight. Sometimes he managed to lose quite a bit of weight, but he always put it back on.

His obesity ultimately led to a variety of significant health issues, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and depression. In the meantime, his weight also was affecting his wallet - buying extra plane seats and large amounts of food and paying exorbitant prices for oversized clothes.

The Benefits Keep Coming

Bariatric surgery is commonly referred to as weight loss surgery. But it just as aptly could be described as “health-gain surgery,” as the health benefits for Chuck and many other bariatric surgery patients go far beyond weight loss.

Recent research shows that weight loss surgery has the potential to dramatically improve a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, depression, asthma, infertility (in women), osteoarthritis, and gout. It also is believed to be particularly effective at treating metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, and obstructive sleep apnea. In some cases, such as type 2 diabetes, patients experience significant improvement within days after surgery. In many cases, the diseases go into remission.

“Many published studies have clearly demonstrated that qualified candidates who opt to have bariatric surgery dramatically improve their chances of living longer and having a better quality of life,” says Dr. Shikora.

For Chuck, the surgery has led to a cornucopia of benefits. It already has helped him achieve optimal cholesterol and blood pressure levels, cure his sleep apnea and diabetes, and boost his energy level.

Chuck also notes that he has experienced other benefits that have yet to be explored in the scientific literature – a better love life and a better golf handicap. Although he already had a respectable handicap of 12-14 when he weighed 527 pounds, his handicap is now 2-4, and he no longer needs a golf cart to get around the course. His dream of becoming a club golf professional is now more of a goal than a dream.

The Right Choice for Him

Chuck realizes that there are many roads to overcoming obesity and that the sooner you confront it, the more successful you’ll be.

“My goal is to educate people, especially kids,” says Chuck. “I want to teach these kids and their parents that there’s a chance for them to get a hold of it now. I don’t want kids to go through their whole life being obese and heavy and having to deal with what I dealt with.”

But, after battling obesity for years without success, Chuck decided that surgery was his best chance at a healthy life.

“I’ll be the first to admit it,” explains Chuck. “I could not do it on my own. I wasn’t embarrassed or shy or scared to say that.”

And Chuck is pleased with the choice that he made.

“I’m beginning to see myself as healthy, and I look good, too” says Chuck. “Now everything is possible.”

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