Steve Fales lost weight so quickly after having gastric bypass surgery at Emerson last summer that his surgeon was amazed. Since then, he gets requests to talk with people who are considering the treatment.
“I usually say to them: ‘You’ll know when you’re ready,’” he notes. Mr. Fales (pictured at right with his daughter, Amanda) knew when he was ready; he says that is why he has been so successful.
Before he contacted the Emerson Hospital Center for Weight Loss, there were moments that stood out. “As I kept gaining weight, my back pain got worse,” says the Townsend resident, who is 54. “One day, my primary care physician finally said, ‘You have to make a decision — have spine surgery or do something about your weight.’”
Formerly active, Mr. Fales had steadily gained weight during his 30s and 40s, losing it and gaining it back. As his weight increased, his outlook changed — and not for the better. “I became withdrawn to where my family was worried about me,” he says. “I ate to make myself feel better. It was easier to go to Wal-Mart and buy larger-sized jeans than to lose weight.” Along with chronic back pain, he had knee pain and sleep apnea.
Then, one day he and his wife were sitting in the car, and she got his attention. “She said to me ‘What are you doing?’” Mr. Fales recalls. He heard her, and he realized it was time to lose weight.
“That’s my doctor”
His physician had given him literature about the Emerson center on two occasions, but now Mr. Fales took action. “I signed up for one of their webinars, which happened to be given by Dr. Doyon,” he says, referring to Laura Doyon, MD, FACS, FASMBS
, a bariatric surgeon at the center. “I could hear the passion in her voice for helping people. I thought ‘that’s my doctor.’”
At his first appointment at Emerson, he was impressed at the lack of pressure. “The message was: we’re in no hurry for you to have surgery, and we’ll help you decide which surgery is right for you,” he recalls. “They have a process, and they guide you through it. They’re fantastic.”
All patients who are considering bariatric surgery meet with a psychiatric social worker. “That appointment had a huge impact on me,” says Mr. Fales. “We discussed why I was finally ready to have the surgery, and I told her I was doing it for my wife and daughters. But that was the wrong answer. She made me understand — and I finally did — that I needed to do it for myself.
“I began looking at things differently. I put myself in this position — needing to lose 200 pounds — and I was going to get myself out of it.”
“Our patients typically have struggled with their weight for years, if not decades,” says Dr. Doyon. “Then certain factors come together in their life that prepares them to tackle their weight loss. It requires a degree of courage, support from family and friends and feeling like you’re with the right team to get you through it. I think Steve had a reckoning; he was ready to have the surgery.”
After Dr. Doyon performed his gastric bypass surgery in July 2017, Mr. Fales proceeded to lose weight at a steady pace. In fact, he lost more weight in a six-month period than any patient Dr. Doyon has treated. “I’ve lost more pounds than I currently weigh now,” he said a few weeks before the first anniversary of his surgery.
“Steve has been ultra-successful because he follows the rules, including what our dietitians tell him,” says Dr. Doyon. “But importantly, he’s transformed himself with exercise. Steve is a regular exerciser who doesn’t consider it to be a kind of punishment. He enjoys the mental release and satisfaction that comes with being physically capable of running and working out.”
That is what he does — rigorously. “I’m at Planet Fitness five or six days a week, and I run,” says Mr. Fales. “My energy is beyond. I don’t get tired or winded, I’m not sore, I sleep well, and I put in a full day.”
He often runs with his daughter, Amanda, who is eager to train for her high school basketball and soccer teams. “My father is a different person since he lost weight,” she says. “He’s happy now.”
He was ready for surgery — and life after surgery
Mr. Fales agrees that he does “follow the rules” provided by the center’s staff, but he’s not afraid to be creative. “I experiment to find ways to take in protein,” he says. “I’ve developed my own recipes. The good thing is that I fill up fast — two ounces of meat is enough.”
He is so enthusiastic about his weight loss and Emerson’s center that he would like to serve as a mentor to individuals who are having weight loss surgery. “Those first days in the hospital, you can doubt yourself,” he says. “For example, I had a tough time with the protein drinks, but the staff gives you the support you need.”
He was impressed to see that Emerson has a dedicated unit for bariatric surgery patients. “It was great,” he says. “The nurse taking care of me had weight loss surgery herself, like most of the patients on the unit.”
Dr. Doyon hears this regularly from her patients. “We have a unit dedicated to our weight loss surgery patients because we want them to feel completely comfortable,” she says. “The nurses know all the tips and tricks to help patients during those first days — what to watch for and how to reassure them. Patients see that they’re in a system where the entire team is dedicated to them.”
Mr. Fales emphasizes the importance of being psychologically prepared for the surgery — and life after surgery. “It’s not the easy way out,” he insists. “You have to work at it. My mind was made up. To be successful, you need to understand what’s going on with your mind.”
The staff at the Emerson Hospital Center for Weight Loss helped him throughout the process. “It begins with James Rainville at the front desk, who treats you like a friend, to Dr. Doyon. I don’t have enough words to praise her. She gave me the tool I needed, and a lot more.”
“Steve was so ready for surgery — so prepared mentally — that he just nailed it,” says Dr. Doyon. “It’s an honor to help someone like Steve.”