Before Bariatric Surgery

This is the second installment of our Bariatric Journey series. Here, we highlight the process before surgery from the patient’s perspective. Click here to read the first installment, the decision making process for surgery. Watch for our final installment, life after surgery, in January.

Jeff Harris had made the decision to have bariatric surgery. But before the operation could begin, he would have to undergo a long process of evaluations, education and a mental battle like he’s never experienced before.

Medical evaluations included an assessment to determine if he was medically suitable to have surgery as well as a psychological evaluation to ensure he understood the risks and benefits. He then began regular meetings with a physical therapist and dietitian.

“Everybody in the process has to release you,” Jeff said. “Once they give the OK, that’s when they set the date and then go from there.”

Jeff began an exercise program that included walking and weight lifting. Through his work with the dietitian, he started to select foods with the appropriate amounts of fats and sugars. In four months, he dropped 20 pounds.

“I was asked, ‘Why don’t you just keep doing this?’” he said.  “I didn’t think I could keep it up for a lifetime without help. I knew I needed help to get to where I wanted to get.”

Through Advocate BroMenn Medical Center’s partnership with Memorial Medical Center, Jeff, a Bloomington resident, received the pre-operative nutrition, physical therapy, social work, laboratory and imaging services at the Normal facility. His only trip to Springfield would be for the surgery.

“Someone said to me that surgery is cheating,” he said. “Whatever it was to them was fine, but I knew for me, it would be a lifesaver.”

As someone who had never maintained a regular exercise program or read food labels, the process was an adjustment. Even his wife, Lisa, although supportive, thought he would eventually change his mind about the operation.

But Jeff kept making preparations. Because his job as a medical office manager wasn’t physical, he planned for just two weeks off from work. He read all the literature and felt mentally ready.

That was until he began the pre-op diet two weeks before surgery, a restricted-calorie, high-protein, low-fat diet.

“There was nothing as hard as those two weeks,” Jeff said.  “If I had been successful dieting previously, I wouldn’t be in this condition. I hadn’t been hungry in 25 years. It was psychologically hard, emotionally hard and obviously physically hard.”

With his wife’s support, Jeff overcame the cravings. And eight months after he first began the process, he was full of excitement and nerves the night before surgery.

“It’s just what you do when you come that far. You’re not going to turn back at that point.”

Have you thought about bariatric surgery or are you interested in learning more about the Memorial Bariatric Services program? Complete our online orientation to learn more about bariatric surgical options.