• Bryan Jackson before his bariatric surgery at 245 pounds.

    SAMMC offers weight loss options

    Bryan Jackson before his bariatric surgery at 245 pounds.

  • Bryan Jackson stands with his surgeon, Army Lt. Col. (P) Dr. Marty Harnish, SAMMC Bariatric Surgery chief, in front of the bariatric surgery clinic at SAMMC. Bryan has lost 109 pounds since his surgery.

    SAMMC offers weight loss options

    Bryan Jackson stands with his surgeon, Army Lt. Col. (P) Dr. Marty Harnish, SAMMC Bariatric Surgery chief, in front of the bariatric surgery clinic at SAMMC. Bryan has lost 109 pounds since his surgery.

  • Elizabeth and Robert Brickley, stand with their daughter, Rebekah, before their bariatric surgery.

    SAMMC offers weight loss options

    Elizabeth and Robert Brickley, stand with their daughter, Rebekah, before their bariatric surgery.

  • Elizabeth and Robert Brickley, show off their new weight at SAMMC. Since the surgery, Elizabeth has lost more than 96 pounds and Robert has lost 85 pounds.

    SAMMC offers weight loss options

    Elizabeth and Robert Brickley, show off their new weight at SAMMC. Since the surgery, Elizabeth has lost more than 96 pounds and Robert has lost 85 pounds.

Obesity is more than being overweight; it also leads to many health problems including hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and even certain cancers.

Bryan Jackson, a Navy retiree, never had a weight problem until he injured his foot during a physical workout while on active duty.

"I injured my foot during PT (physical training) onboard my ship," said Jackson. "I was in a cast on and off for two years and had a lot of complications with my foot. Being on a ship, not eating properly coupled with limited physical activities due to doctor's orders - my health worsened along with my weight."

He retired from active duty and, after two years of failing diets and poor eating habits, his weight skyrocketed. At that point he knew he had to do something about it. He talked to his primary care doctor and was referred to San Antonio Military Medical Center's Bariatric Surgery Clinic.

"Because of the weight I was carrying --breathing was a problem for me; I had asthma, was diabetic, had high cholesterol, and had several mini strokes -- all because of my weight. I had no energy," Jackson said. "I got to a point; I was tired of being fat."

After five months of initial pre-screening and seminars, he underwent the laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery - a surgical procedure that entails stapling and dividing the stomach and reconnecting the intestines.

"It was the best decision I have ever made," said Jackson. "Before the surgery, I was on nine medications and was 245 pounds and now a year later, I'm not on any medications and dropped to 136 pounds, I'm back to my high school size."

It takes hard work and commitment to maintain the weight after surgery but it is well worth it, said Jackson.

"It's not an easy change; you have to be serious about your weight loss. I'm keeping it off because I don't want to go back," he said. "Proper nutrition, food portion control and exercise are essential in keeping your weight off. You can't expect to eat the way you did before the surgery."

The Brickleys

After 23 years of marriage and constantly struggling with their weight and health issues, retired Robert Brickley, an Air Force retiree, and his wife, Elizabeth, were ready to make a change.

In January, following the referral from her doctor and the bariatric pre-screening process at SAMMC, Elizabeth underwent the gastric bypass surgery. Since then she has lost more than 96 pounds.

"What's amazing is that I went from size 22/24 to size 2/4. That's a big difference," she said.

Robert followed two months later and underwent the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy surgery- a procedure in which the stomach is 70 percent removed and folded into a long tube or sleeve.
He has lost 85 pounds since his initial screening in March and is motivated to lose 44 more pounds in the near future.

"I had no problem losing the weight before the surgery," said Robert. "The problem was that I couldn't keep it off. I didn't know about proper nutrition until I went through the nutrition classes here at the clinic. It's all about the calories you intake a day; I'm watching everything I eat."

"We carry a fitness application on our iPads to help keep track of our calorie intake and exercise routine," he added.

Since the operation, Elizabeth and Robert are actively enjoying each other's company by taking four mile walks every day, learning to Salsa dance, and shopping.

"Our marriage has definitely been better because I feel good about myself," said Robert. "There is that extra spark (since we both lost so much weight) and we get to do more things together without being tired all the time."

"I'm so glad we did this (surgery) - my only regret is that I wish we could have done it sooner," added Elizabeth.

"There are no negatives in the whole process; the personal care you get from everyone in the clinic is outstanding. The compassion of the staff and doctors are amazing," said Elizabeth as Robert nodded in agreement.

SAMMC Bariatric Surgery Clinic

"Obesity remains a growing epidemic in the United States and among military medical beneficiaries," said Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Jason Pfluke, SAMMC general surgeon and Bariatric Surgery officer in charge. "Many patients come in with more than one medical issue such as hypertension, sleep apnea or hyperlipidemia; however, their systems usually, improve about 95 percent after the surgery."

"Our clinic offers three surgical options to combat obesity to improve the quality of life," said Army Lt. Col. (P) Dr. Marty Harnish, Bariatric Surgery chief. "Since the surgery is a life-changing commitment for our patients to undertake, all patients go through a comprehensive medical assessment and psychological evaluation before their surgery to make sure they are ready to take on this tool."

In addition to the medical screenings, SAMMC nutritionists provide nutrition and diet counseling to patients on how to adjust and change their eating habits.

"Our nutritionists work with our patients to keep a food dairy to record their daily intake, including dietary progression, protein and fluid requirements, and lifelong vitamin and mineral supplements," said Harnish.

SAMMC Bariatric Surgery Clinic offers three kinds of laparoscopic bariatric surgeries: Adjustable Gastric band (Lap-Band®), Gastric Bypass (Roux-en-Y) and Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy.

The Bariatric Clinic is a self-referral clinic and offers informational seminars on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month. It is located on the second floor of the medical mall in the General Surgery Clinic and also accepts referrals from primary care managers.

For more information about the services or bariatric support groups, call 210.916.9023.

Page last updated Mon September 30th, 2013 at 17:10