Note: This article is dedicated in memory of Margaret Rink Spruell who passed away on December 18, 2003 as a result of complications from obesity and diabetes.
Alex Spruell knows all too well the health risks associated with being overweight. He has suffered from obesity since early adulthood and has been dependent upon daily insulin shots and pills to maintain his blood sugar since the age of 29. Several of Alex’s family members, including his grandparents, parents and siblings have all suffered from diabetes as a result of obesity.
In 1996, while living in Florida, Alex learned that the health of both of his parents was declining. He moved back to North Carolina to help care of them. His father was losing his eyesight due to diabetes and his mother had a series of amputations over a period of 20 years until both of her legs were amputated in 2000.
Alex’s diabetes began to spiral out of control and his endocrinologist, knowing his family history, told him that he had to lose the weight or risk losing his life. Alex began a strict diet and exercise regime, but still could not lose the weight. His endocrinologist gave him one last option, gastric bypass surgery. Although the procedure was relatively new, Alex decided that the risks of surgery outweighed the risks associated with his diabetes, but he would need a second opinion. He was referred to his mother’s surgeon. Alex was informed that because of his family history, he had two options; have the gastric bypass surgery now or have all of the other operations (that his parents have had) later.
Alex did extensive research on the surgery prior to making his decision. Since childhood, Alex watched his grandparents suffer and eventually die from complications from diabetes. Then, after taking his mother to dialysis three days a week for the last six years, the answer was pretty clear. Alex remembers a plea from his mother, “Son, you have watched all of us suffer, you have to beat this. You see your future through the past generations, use me and your dad as an example and take care of yourself, this cycle has to stop.”
Being accepted as a gastric bypass patient requires a lot of pre-screenings and evaluations to make sure that the surgery is the best option for the patient. Alex was accepted and prepared to have the operation. On the day of his gastric bypass surgery, his mother was also in the Frye operating room to have a stent repaired for dialysis – another complication of obesity and diabetes. Although she was scheduled to be operated on first, she asked the surgeon to perform surgery on Alex first, so that she would know that “her baby was OK”. Alex’s surgery was successful and today, he is 110 lbs lighter.
In May 2004, Alex saw an ad in the local paper that asked for clothing donations for the residents of Exodus Homes in Hickory. Exodus Homes is a supportive housing facility that assists former addicts and prisoners make the transition back into everyday life. Most of the residents come to the facility with just the clothes on their back
Alex, although 110 pounds lighter, had not gotten rid of his old clothes and saw this as the perfect opportunity to clean out his closets and to help someone in need. Alex and his wife Lisa gathered up his old clothes and took them to Exodus Homes. The staff and the young man who received the clothes were grateful to Alex for his donation and the difference it will surely make in this man’s life.
Alex’s life has changed so much and he is healthier than he has ever been. “Having gastric bypass surgery has completely changed my life. I am free from the daily routine of taking insulin shots and pills, and the restrictions the weight put on me. I control my diabetes through diet and exercise now and I feel so much better. I am more confident, which I feel makes me a better husband and businessman, because I feel better about myself. I can now do things that I could not do before because of my weight problem. The surgery was one of the best decisions that I have ever made, I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with the battles that I faced”.
Frye Regional Medical Center offers a Surgical Weight Loss Program that may help you reach you health goals and help you feel good – inside and out. The program is for those who are 100 or more pounds overweight or have a body mass index of 40 or greater and who have struggled unsuccessfully to lose weight. The truth is, although there are risks associated, weight loss surgery may change your life, too.
For more information on Frye’s Surgical Weight Loss Program call 828-315-3391 or toll free 800-339-8758.
This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. As each case must be independently evaluated and managed, weight loss will vary. Gastric bypass surgery is for patients who are 100 pounds or more overweight.