It’s the American way to over-indulge during the holidays, but for three Rhode Island Department of Corrections employees who have shed over 100 pounds each after having gastric bypass surgery, portions will be small just as they must be any other time of the year.
It was when he had to special order a tuxedo for his daughter’s Father/Daughter Dance at school that Correctional Officer Captain Paul Bartholomy of Coventry began to think seriously about shedding the extra pounds he’d put on during the course of over a decade of unhealthy eating and living habits. His weight was beginning to affect him on the job too. When responding to a code at work, “they almost had to call a code on me,” he reflects. The Rhode Island Department of Corrections employee had tried every diet available and none of them worked. Since having gastric bypass surgery last April, he has lost over 100 pounds. He has gone from a 48 waist to a 34, a size 2X shirt to Medium, and is fast approaching his goal of 170 pounds -- his weight when he entered the Correctional Officer Training Academy 26 years ago.
Despite the fact that he spent three days in Rhode Island Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit on a breathing machine post surgery until his caregivers were able to regulate his pulse and breathing, Captain Bartholomy says he now feels healthier and has more energy than ever before. He knew going into the surgery that there were serious risks involved, but says “I rolled the dice and took a chance, and I’d do it again.”
Captain Bartholomy’s doctor had explained to him that over 90% of people who lose weight on diets regain it within two to three years. “Gastric bypass surgery is the only proven method for taking weight off and keeping it off,” he says, “but it’s not a magic bullet – just a tool. What you do with it is up to you.”
What he’s done is stopped eating after 6:30 p.m., started walking or running three to five miles a day, and basically taken his life back. When his mother passed away a few months ago, he wore a suit he hadn’t worn in 17 years which had recently come back into style. A self-described jeans and t-shirt guy, he caused jaws to drop when he arrived at the service and saw family and friends he hadn’t seen since losing the weight. Captain Bartholomy says his fellow officers – some of whom visited him in the hospital -- have been tremendous, and even inmates have complimented him. “I have a soft spot in my heart for people who are heavy,” he shares, noting that he’s regularly approached by people who are contemplating the surgery and seeking his advice.
Just six weeks after Captain Bartholomy’s own surgery, he found himself visiting a colleague, Intake Service Center Correctional Officer Captain Robert Clancy of Riverside, as he recovered from the same procedures at Roger Williams Hospital. Captain Clancy has lost over 90 pounds and though he too had complications that led him back in the emergency room, says he knows the surgery was the right choice for him. His doctor recommended it out of concerns over his high blood pressure and family history of heart disease. “I have been with the Department since July of 1982 and I never believed I would live long enough to retire…now I feel like I have that chance.”
Al Charette of Warwick, a Senior Maintenance Technician with the Facilities and Maintenance Unit since 1991, had his gastric bypass operation in April of 2008 and has steadily been losing weight ever since. He is now 126 pounds lighter than he was prior to the surgery and feels better than ever. He was on six different blood pressure medications and his heart was enlarging when his doctor told him he had to lose weight or he would be dead within five years. He attended a seminar on gastric bypass surgery at the Miriam Hospital and did his own research before deciding to move forward with the procedure.
Al has had no complications and is able to eat just about anything, in small portions, four to five times a day. He lost between 80 and 90 pounds in the first sixth months and continues to lose gradually but steadily. He no longer takes any medication except for vitamins and protein shakes and supplements required for those who undergo the procedure.
Now instead of sitting in the audience, Al goes around and speaks to groups of people interested in learning more about gastric bypass surgery at the Miriam. Informational meetings are held there the first Tuesday of the month with doctors and nursing staff present to answer questions. Charette just turned 50 and figures he has many additional years ahead thanks to the surgery and his drastic lifestyle changes. His two children, who were hesitant about him having the procedure at first, are very happy and confident that they will have their new and improved dad in their lives for many years to come.