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Heart Attack Survivor Finds Weight Loss Success with Bariatric Surgery

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Patient Greg Potts and Leena Khaitan, MD

On May 12, 2018 – Mother’s Day – Greg Potts woke up in the middle of the night with chest pains. Not wanting to disturb his sleeping children, Greg told his wife he was going to drive himself to the hospital. When he got there, the staff at University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center quickly confirmed that Greg was having a heart attack.

Greg went into surgery and had a total of three stents placed. When he was released from the hospital, Greg – who weighed about 310 pounds at the time – was determined to make some healthy changes in his life. For a while, things were going well and he lost some weight, but eventually he started falling back into old habits. He started to gain weight again, and was up to 340 pounds at his heaviest. Greg knew he needed to do something, and started looking into weight loss surgery at University Hospitals.

“I remember the first time I met with my cardiologist after my heart attack, the words ‘bariatric surgery’ were brought up,” Greg recalls. “I kind of dismissed it at that time, because I didn't think that it applied to me.”

But nearly four years later, it was clear that diet and exercise alone were no longer working to get him back to a healthy weight. He remembered a friend posting on Facebook about her own incredible journey with bariatric surgery, so he contacted her to learn more about her experience. As he found out more about bariatric surgery, he started to seriously consider the option.

“I already have a sleep doctor, a cardiologist, a rheumatologist. I have all these doctors that are already in place. Maybe it's time that I schedule an appointment with my doctors and start talking about the possibility of bariatric surgery and what it could do for me,” he said.

Making the Decision for Surgery

Greg met with his cardiologist and his primary care provider, and they referred him to bariatric surgeon and director of the University Hospital Bariatric Surgery Program, Leena Khaitan, MD, MPH.

Greg had his first meeting with Dr. Khaitan in February 2022. When they discussed all the different procedures, Dr. Khaitan told Greg that she felt gastric bypass was the best option for him.

“The gastric bypass procedure is the weight loss procedure that's withstood the test of time,” explains Dr. Khaitan. “It helps patients lose weight in three distinct ways: restricting how much you can eat, decreasing the absorption of the calories you eat, and supporting behavioral changes for the patient.”

With gastric bypass, the surgeon separates the top part of the stomach from the rest of the stomach, leaving it about the size of a plum. Then, the intestines are rerouted to aid in the malabsorption of calories.

After meeting with Dr. Khaitan, Greg began the preliminary steps for surgery, such as taking the required classes, meeting with dietitians and a psychologist, and getting insurance clearance. In the weeks leading up to the surgery, Greg focused on making changes to his lifestyle – cutting out sugary beverages and fried and fast foods, and working on portion control – all changes that would be important post-surgery. At his heaviest, Greg weighed 340 pounds, but he was down to about 320 pounds by the time he went in for surgery.

Surgery and Recovery

Greg’s gastric bypass surgery took place on May 12, 2022 – four years to the day after his heart attack. Since recovery looks different for everyone, Greg says he didn’t really know what to expect after surgery. He says the surgery itself and the immediate post-op period went pretty smoothly with no major complications. He took his doctors’ advice and tried to move around as much as possible during the initial two-day recovery period in the hospital.

“I'm a pretty energetic guy. I like singing and dancing, getting around. So, I'm just going to walk up and down this hallway as much as possible and I'm going to sing. I'm going to do whatever I need to do,” recalled Greg.

Putting the Plan into Action

When Greg left the hospital, he had the tools in place and a roadmap to success; but he knew that the rest was up to him. He took all of the advice and instructions from his UH care team and put them into action: following up with his dietitians, meal prepping, exercising. And the weight started to come off.

“When you start seeing those results, the flame starts burning way brighter and you want to do more. And you know that that process is beneficial and is working for you,” says Greg.

Greg noticed the increased amount of energy he had for working toward his goals. And it wasn’t just about seeing the number go down when he stepped on the scale. Greg says that as a bigger person, there were certain things you get used to not being able to do, like ride a roller coaster. He talked about how it felt to be able to ride a roller coaster again on a recent trip to Cedar Point with his wife and kids – and how surprised he was that this simple experience could cause such an emotional response.

“I remember going up the hill in this roller coaster with my daughter beside me. And I though, ‘This is crazy, this is what I did when I was a kid,’” he recalls. “And being able to experience that with my kids and do things with them, it's a phenomenal feeling.”

Greg is especially grateful for all of his providers at University Hospitals for helping him reach his goals, and being there for ongoing support.

“I am so happy for what they have been able to do for me,” he says. “Being able to talk things out with them and utilizing the knowledge that they have to help guide me to make the right decisions. I know my doctors have given me the tools that I need, and it's up to me to build something with it.”

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