Elliot was heavy from his teen years, reporting, "I don't remember a time when I wasn't struggling with my weight."
A variety of diets used in his thirties and forties produced periods of substantial weight loss, but each new low was followed by weight gain that took him to ever-larger sizes. When called upon to become primary care giver to his wife following an auto accident, Elliott became more home bound than ever, and, as he readily admits,"ate poorly." He found himself on insulin and pills to control his diabetes and took multiple medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Once his weight surpassed 300 pounds, Elliot decided to explore a surgical solution.
As a doctorally-trained sociologist and ethicist, Elliot was well able to educate himself about the health implications of his obesity, and about the treatment options available. He became particularly interested in laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery as he learned about its advantages. His investigations eventually brought him to Dr. Merola, whose expertise in minimally-invasive surgery was becoming well known in New York. After attending Dr. Merola's introductory lecture, Elliot was particularly impressed by the data showing how surgical weight loss helped with co-morbid illnesses. He arranged a consultation, and, together with his wife and son, began to deliberate about surgery. However, he elected not to inform his wider family of his plans, fearing that "they might not have supported me in this decision."
5 months after first meeting Dr. Merola, Elliot's mind was made up and the pre-operative evaluations were complete. He entered The NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens where he reports having had "the best of experiences." He found all members of the team "very attentive" to his needs, both inside and outside the operating room. After a 3-day stay, he left for home and the new challenges that lay ahead.
"It's not easy at first. Your incisions hurt. and you really can't eat." Told that he would be on liquids for a week and on "mushy" food for another two, Elliot found that for him it was a bit slower process. He stayed with aliquids-only diet for nearly two weeks, and with "mushy" things for another three. "You start to lose weight right away, but you also throw up a lot until you learn how to eat." Elliot discovered quickly that eating too much or eating too fast were the main culprits. Thereafter it became a matter of identifying those types of foods that he could not tolerate. "I have trouble with fried foods and so I have to avoid them. With other patients its other things that are the problem but they say that these specific food intolerances will go away over time."
As the pounds began to come off, Elliot's need for medicines started to change. By two months after surgery he was off some of his diabetes and high blood pressure medications, and by four months he no longer needed any medication at all (save for the Actigall given after surgery to prevent gallstones). He had effectively been cured of hypertension, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia, and had begun to notice improvement in his sleep apnea.
"I bought myself a bike and am riding for the first time in many, many years. My energy level is much improved, and I can walk for miles now where before surgery just a walk down the block used to exhaust me. The first month after surgery is not easy, and there are ways to defeat this operation if you don't make the changes in your life that are required... but if you do the things you should, the surgery can transform your life."
Maybe best of all the benefits of his weight loss have been the little
life changes that Elliot would never have thought about when first
considering surgery. "Recently I was on a bus and had someone sit in the
seat next to me. She couldn't possibly have known, of course, but I was
'beaming' inside. You see, this was the first time
I can remember that I didn't take up two seats myself."