Harry Haigh's Story: One Man’s Dramatic Transformation through Weight-Loss Surgery
For some people, shedding an extra five or ten pounds before swimsuit season is the only weight challenge they face. For many others; however, living with morbid obesity has likely led to an eroded self-esteem, while also putting them at an increased risk of developing a variety of serious health complications.
When Danger Lies in Weight
The obesity epidemic in the US continues to worsen. In fact, the latest reports show that 38 percent of adults in the US are obese—medically defined as having a body mass index (BMI) that’s more than 30. Managing obesity-related conditions is challenging and often unsuccessful unless the patient can lose a significant amount of weight. Broadly, health risks increase the higher one’s BMI.
For 56-year-old Harry Haigh, a lifetime of struggling to lose weight only to continually regain it, not only resulted in an ever-expanding waistline, but also became the catalyst for a variety of health problems. While the Kingston resident recognized the critical need for weight-loss surgery, it seemed every time he’d explore options, another health issue prevented him from moving forward.
“A few years ago, I knew it was time to explore weight-loss surgery, but between heart, gall bladder and kidney cancer surgeries, it always seemed like I had another health issue standing in my way of moving forward,” Harry said.
By the time Harry tipped the scales at 334 pounds, he had already had six stents placed for heart disease, used a CPAP machine for obstructive sleep apnea, developed pre-diabetes, and had extremely high blood pressure.
The Decision to Pursue Bariatric Surgery
While diets helped Harry over the years, the weight loss he achieved never lasted. Wanting to be healthy for himself and his family, at the advice of his primary care physician, David Halle, MD, Harry attended a weight-loss surgery seminar in early 2016.
“I knew I desperately wanted to extend my life to be with my family for a long time and have the opportunity to see grandchildren one day,” Harry said. “I had exhausted all of my other options if I ever wanted to live to see that."
The free informational seminar—designed for patients considering weight loss surgery—became a turning point for Harry, where he met Neil Ghushe, MD, Brigham and Women’s Surgical Associates and Medical Director, South Shore Hospital Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
“Dr. Ghushe was not only thorough but so compassionate and understanding, communicating exactly what was going to happen,” Harry said. “I knew right away he was the right fit for me as my surgeon.”
While surgery isn’t the first treatment option considered for obesity, when other approaches have failed, it can often be a life-saving solution. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, when there is a comprehensive program in place that offers support throughout one’s weight-loss journey, patients are more likely to achieve long-term weight control and a healthier lifestyle.
South Shore Hospital’s Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery is offered in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Surgical Associates and is designed to help patients achieve long-term, sustained weight loss. Dr. Ghushe is the Center’s Medical Director and is board certified in surgery and fellowship-trained in bariatric surgery. He is supported by a team of certified, compassionate professionals including dietitians, nutritionists, physician assistants, and behavioral health experts—all who specialize in caring for bariatric patients.
“The decision to have bariatric surgery involves significant lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Ghushe. “Long-term success depends not just on the success of the surgical procedure, but also on the availability of services that support you over the course of your life in making permanent changes in diet, fitness and emotional well-being.”
For Harry, Dr. Ghushe recommended the gastric sleeve surgery, also known as the sleeve gastrectomy. The minimally invasive surgery removes part of the stomach and leaves a smaller, tube-shaped stomach or sleeve. As with most bariatric procedures, the sleeve option reduces the size of the stomach and restricts the amount of food patients can eat, helping them feel full sooner.
Prior to bariatric surgery, Harry had an evaluation by a psychologist and attended both one-on-one and group sessions with the Center’s nutritionists to adapt to new diet and exercise habits—essential to long-term success following surgery. Weighing in at more than 300 pounds, he underwent surgery in June 2016.
A Life Transformed
Less than one year after weight-loss surgery, Harry has lost more than 100 pounds while regaining his health and confidence and dramatically reducing his risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
“I feel wonderful! I’m very excited about my weight loss so far and can now do all of the things that once held me back including yard work and travel,” Harry explained. “Almost immediately after having the surgery, I no longer needed to use my CPAP machine for sleep apnea and my blood pressure and blood sugars both normalized.”
His waist has melted from 44 inches to 36 inches and he loves being able to put on his old high school football jersey and crossing his legs when sitting (something he’s never been able to do before). In fact, his svelte new frame has not only garnered lots of compliments, but even a little confusion.
“Most people who knew me when I was heavy don’t even recognize me anymore,” Harry said. “I had to laugh when recently at a party someone said, ‘I keep hearing Harry, but don’t see him anywhere.’”
Though Harry has had to change his lifestyle dramatically, his supportive wife Cynthia of 32 years and two grown daughters, Marlee and Hailey, have stood by him, cheering him on. During meals as a family—something they’ve always done together—he uses the tools and advice of his bariatric dieticians, eating slowly, chewing his food thoroughly before swallowing and using his extra small fork.
“My family is supportive of what I need to do and why,” Harry said. “Prior to surgery, I wasn’t my best self and each day my health and spirit suffered. Now I eat less food, better food, and have become more aware of staying away from my weaknesses…like French fries,” he laughed.
Harry’s desire to be present and healthy for his family provides the extra incentive needed to push through the hard times and he can often now be found running—not just walking—on the high school track.