The decision to undergo bariatric surgery is not one people make lightly. You have to dig deep and consider a lot of questions. Have you thoroughly explored other less-invasive treatments? Are you willing to make huge lifestyle changes before and after the surgery? Does your doctor agree that the surgery is a good option?
These are just some of the questions Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan member Aric Tosqui had to ask himself before undergoing Laparoscopic Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, a variation of bariatric surgery. During the surgery five months ago, approximately 80 to 85 percent of his stomach was removed. But the decision to go through the surgery was for something bigger than him and has put him on a path for sustained health. This is how Aric is doing now:
“The overwhelming factor was that I was about to become a dad. I didn’t want to be that father who couldn’t keep up with his son or, even more importantly, be around to watch him grow up. I wanted to be a positive role model instead of having a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude. I also knew too many people who have suffered heart attacks or had major joint issues because of obesity and weight problems. I was personally battling a series of health problems including high blood pressure and sleep apnea—diseases that were directly related to me being overweight.”
Did you make the decision and then immediately schedule the procedure?
“Not at all—I had to go through a six-month medically supervised weight-control program first. I met with a weight-loss specialist, a dietitian and a psychologist who examined my physical and mental health. Blue Cross wanted to make sure I was committed to the program and that I was stable enough for the surgery. I had to lose 20 pounds, have a large amount of blood work done and go through a stress-test to minimize the risk for complications.”
How was it after the surgery?
“First off, let me say that this was the easiest procedure that I’ve ever gone through. The fastest recovery, the smoothest surgery, everything, due in part to the surgeon, hospital and staff. But also due to the advanced preparation I received from the Beaumont Weight Loss Clinic. I was both physically and mentally prepared for everything that I was to face. As I recovered, I visited my weight-loss doctor and dietician regularly and I’m going to continue to see them three to four times a year. I also wrote about my story online. A lot of people reached out to me who were thinking about going through the surgery and I was able to talk with them about my personal experience.”
How are you doing physically?
“I had to donate everything in my entire wardrobe! I’ve gone down two clothing sizes, lost six inches around my waist, and am 15 pounds away from my target goal of 190. To put that in perspective, I was 285 pounds at the beginning of 2014. I’m also completely off all of my blood pressure medicines!”
What is your diet like now?
“It’s much more nutritious than before, which honestly takes a lot of management. For example, I make it a priority to eat 90 grams of protein every day, so in the morning I have a protein shake mixed with soy milk and low-fat yogurt. My portions are really small, so going out to eat is tough. Sometimes I have to convince my friends to split their meal with me or I just end up taking a lot of my meal home. I mostly cook my own food and am constantly looking at food labels. I’ll examine calories, sugar and sodium amounts before I buy anything at the grocery store. It can be overwhelming sometimes that I can never take shortcuts in my diet, but I am so happy to be where I am at and waking up every morning with energy.”
Anything else you would like other members to know?
“Yes—how great Blue Cross was throughout this whole process. Some insurance companies say they won’t cover bariatric surgery because it’s cosmetic, but this was about my health. This is not a quick fix, it’s a lifestyle change and I want to thank them for starting me down this path.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has guidelines for preapproval for covering bariatric surgery. These include:
- Relevant medical documents as proof that previous weight-loss programs tried by the patient did not help
- The surgery should be prescribed by a physician other than the operating surgeon
- Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40
- The member must participate in a six-month medically-supervised weight control program prior to the surgery
Interested in reading more personal stories from members and Blue Cross employees? Check out:
- Scoliosis And Pain: How One Blue Cross Employee Manages Her Diagnosis
- Compassion Flights Take Off In Michigan
- How One Blue Cross Employee Earned a College Degree While Working Full Time
Photo credit: Derek Hatfield