My name is Brandy. I am 29 years-old and in July of 2007 I had gastric bypass surgery with Dr. Richards and I was at my heaviest weight of 367 pounds. I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I also live with an auto-immune disorder that had caused my kidneys to fail. I started dialysis in 2005 and did not qualify for a transplant because I was too heavy.
I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I hit 200 pounds when I was in middle school. I was an active child playing basketball and volleyball, but I could never control my weight. I went from a size 12 to a size 18 by the time I entered high school. I was able to maintain my weight at around 250 pounds through high school and I was the quintessential fat girl with the skinny friends. I always wanted to be able to share clothes with my best friends but was always too big. There is always the one girl in high school that is the “friend” to all the guys, but not girlfriend material and that girl was me. I was not one of the kids that was made fun of for my weight so I never thought it was that big of a deal. I was happy with who I was.
After I graduated from high school and hit the real world I realized that it was not socially ok to be overweight. I worked as an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant. During that time I started to gain more weight. I wanted to date and be a normal young adult however that did not happen. When I was 20 I decided to change the direction of my life. I got a new job so I would not be around food all day and started dieting. I was successful at loosing 30 pounds by exercising 3 days a week.
Then in 2003, I moved from California to Tennessee. I was new in town with no friends and stopped exercising. I quickly gained the 30 pounds back and started to feel really tired and run down all the time. I thought that it was just me being lazy, but then things got worse. I was short of breath all the time and my doctors thought I had asthma. I thought this was just part of being overweight. One night I went to sleep and woke up the next morning with my lungs hemorrhaging. I was sent to the emergency room and I found out after a week of being in the hospital that I had an auto-immune disorder called Wegener’s Granulmatosis. I was put on a lot of medications and fell into a deep depression. Through the next several years I was in and out of the hospital. I ended up gaining close to 100 pounds – skyrocketing to 350 pounds. I was severely depressed and constantly thought that it didn’t matter what I weighed because I was going to die anyways. When I found out that my kidneys failed and that I needed a transplant I also found out that I was too overweight to get one. I was determined to loose the 125 pounds that the doctors told me I needed to loose to get my transplant.
I came to the Vanderbilt Center for Surgical Weight Loss in the summer of 2006. I met with the dietitian and started the process of getting insurance approval. In order to meet my insurance company requirements I had to complete a six month doctor supervised diet. Also, I had to get clearance for the surgery from all of my medical specialists. I was finally cleared for surgery in June and it was schedule for July 2007. On the day of surgery I was over 350 pounds.
On July 17th, 2007 I had the laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. It was the best decision I have ever made for myself. When I left the hospital I had already lost 7 pounds. I was excited about the future that had just opened up for me. I was excited for each of my follow-up appointment so I could see my progress. At my one month check up I had already lost 50 pounds. I started working out after six weeks post-op. I am lucky to work for a company that has a gym and personal trainers onsite. I was working out with a personal trainer three times a week doing cardio and weight training. At three months I had lost 100 pounds and I was feeling great, but I started to plateau. That’s when I found a love for riding bikes and hiking. I would ride on the weekends for 15-20 miles at a time. By increasing my exercise and continuing to eat healthy I was able to loose 160 pounds at six months post-op putting me at 220 pounds. 220 pounds was my original goal weigh; however, I was enjoying working out so much that I continued with my regimen and hit my new goal weight of 175 pounds on January 1st of 2009.
Unfortunately, due to a back injury I suffered while running I had to stop exercising for three months. I ended up gaining 15 pounds and I am currently working on loosing that again. I have truly learned that the gastric bypass surgery is not a cure all fix all for my weight issues. It is a tool that has helped me get over the hump of obesity. I now have to make a conscious decision each day to eat healthy and to exercise.
As of February 2010, I am still waiting for my kidney transplant but it is not because I do not qualify. I am currently listed on the National Organ Transplant Wait List and I am looking forward to the day I get that call.
I can honestly say that my decision to have the gastric bypass surgery at Vanderbilt was one of the best things I could have ever done for myself and for my future.
If you are intrested in seeing if you are a match and are willing to give the gift of life you can contact the Vanderbilt University transplan center at 615-936-0695 and choose option 2. You can also go to www.VanderbiltTransplant.com and click on Kidney/Pancreas tab. On the right hand side you will find a link that says Am I eligible to become a Kidney Transplant Living donor. Even if you cannot donote please share my page with your facebook friends and family. I appreciate you taking the time to read my story.