For texas man, bariatric surgery led to diabetes-free life

by Serena Gordon, Healthday Reporter
For texas man, bariatric surgery led to diabetes-free life
Paul Garcia lost 200 pounds, quit diabetes meds and feels like 'totally new person.'

(HealthDay)—Paul Garcia, 54, came from a family that loved to eat. "We always had a lot of food at home, and whenever we ate, it was like a feast," said Garcia.

And he said his family's weren't always the healthiest either. "My were terrible," he said. "We'd have lots of flour tortillas, beans and rice."

Over the years, Garcia's weight ballooned—to 430 pounds at his heaviest. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and put on insulin to bring down his . But he had such a hard time controlling his blood sugar, he said, that he went into a coma more than once. He also had several heart attacks and lost sight in one eye. His triglycerides, a bad type of fat in the blood, were over 2,000. Doctors recommend those levels be below 150, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Garcia also came close to losing a foot. Though doctors told him that they might very well need to amputate his foot, the surgeons were able to save his foot but they did have to amputate two toes.

That proved to be a tipping point.

"I'd been diabetic for 15 years," Garcia said. "I didn't want to lose my feet. I knew I had to change or I would die."

Change wouldn't come easily, however. Garcia said that his doctor, who'd heard that gastric could successfully treat diabetes, initially suggested it. But first, to ensure that he was a good candidate for the drastic required after the surgery, Garcia's doctors enrolled him in a six-month nutrition program to help people learn to control their eating. He had already lost some weight on his own and was down to 370 pounds when he started the nutrition program. After six months, he was down to 320 pounds—a clear sign that he was making the necessary changes.

Besides the , Garcia said, his health-care team also recommended a 12-step program for .

"It's like being an alcoholic," Garcia said. "Our thinking gets us into this situation, and that's why they have the 12-step program with the surgery, so you learn to deal with your thoughts."

Once he had the surgery, in May 2011, he said that changes began happening immediately.

"My sugar levels came down drastically," Garcia said. "I was on , but now I don't have to take any medications at all."

He now weighs 232 pounds and does 6 miles on an elliptical exercise machine every day. He's also been lifting weights and building muscles. His waist circumference, at 48 inches when he had the surgery, is now 36 inches.

"Exercise has really motivated me and changed my depression," Garcia said. "It was hard having so many issues with my health."

When first diagnosed with , Garcia's hemoglobin A1C levels (a measure of levels for the previous two to three months) were 16 percent. Someone without diabetes generally has levels below 6 percent. His last A1C was 5.6 percent. And, his were down to normal, at 133.

Garcia said he's still very careful about what he eats. He tries to stay away from meat and processed foods. A typical day's diet begins with a protein drink and a banana, followed by a salad for lunch and a Portobello mushroom quesadilla for dinner.

"It's a big adjustment and a lot of hard work," he said. "You have to be committed. You can't just think that the surgery is going to be a miracle."

But he said the hard work has been worth it.

"I feel like someone just turned the lights on," he said. "I had a glaze in my eyes, but in the last four months I can see everything clearly again. I feel like a totally new person."

More information: Find out more about weight-loss surgery's effects on diabetes, here.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Diabetes groups issue new guidelines on blood sugar

Apr 19, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Type 2 diabetes is a complex metabolic disorder, and treating the disease often requires a personalized, multi-pronged approach, say new expert guidelines on treating high blood sugar levels, ...

Be Aware of Blood Sugar Post Gastric Bypass

Jan 04, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- People with type 2 diabetes who have gastric bypass surgery often leave the hospital without the need for previously prescribed diabetes medications.

Recommended for you

Could daylight savings time be a risk to diabetics?

42 minutes ago

Soon, many will turn back the hands of time as part of the twice-annual ritual of daylight savings time. That means remembering to change the alarm clock next to the bed, which will mean an extra hour of ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.