Challenge Accepted

Wil Nelson, 46, lost 145 pounds after having bariatric surgery at Fort Sanders Regional. He is now living life to the fullest as an avid runner and athlete.

East Tennessee Man Loses 145 pounds with Weight-Loss Surgery

Wil Nelson is a loving husband, father and avid runner living in Blaine, Tennessee. A few years ago, Nelson found himself experiencing high blood pressure and severe, debilitating headaches. Weighing 300 pounds at the time, he sought weight-loss options at Covenant Health Fort Sanders Regional. He underwent bariatric surgery in 2020 and now weighs 175 pounds. He lives an active lifestyle and is thankful for the expertise and compassion of his healthcare team.

Weighing the Options – Weight-Loss Medications and Bariatric Surgery

At his highest weight, Nelson weighed 323 pounds. In addition to suffering from terrible migraines, he struggled to walk a distance across a parking lot. He had trouble bending and standing, and says, “It didn’t come easily for me to stand up from sitting or get around.”

As his health suffered, Nelson discussed several options with his physician. He tried several weight-loss medications without success. He even gained weight on one of the medications. So when his doctor recommended weight-loss surgery, Nelson was interested.

He was introduced to Mark Colquitt, MD, bariatric surgeon at Fort Sanders Regional.

“Dr. Colquitt was upfront and honest with me about what it takes to be successful,” Nelson says. “I really appreciated that and so did my wife. We appreciated his approach about helping us understand what it would take to meet my goal.”

Weight-Loss Surgery at Fort Sanders Regional

“This surgery isn’t for everyone – there are non-surgical weight-loss options – but for many people, this is the tool that helps them meet their goal,” says Dr. Colquitt. “Surgery is only part of it, though. To lose a large amount of weight takes hard work and lifestyle changes.”

Nelson lost over 20 pounds before surgery, so his weight on surgery day was 298 pounds. He had bariatric surgery in August 2020 at Fort Sanders Regional. Dr. Colquitt performed a procedure known as robotic sleeve gastrectomy. It involves removing part of the stomach to limit food intake, which leads to weight loss. Because the incisions can be made laparoscopically, the procedure is minimally invasive.

“I make five small incisions and the operation only takes an hour,” says Dr. Colquitt. “These are times when patients and families are excited to go into surgery, and to see this kind of outcome is very rewarding.”

Nelson spent one night in the hospital following surgery. He says, “It was great from start to finish, I didn’t have any negative experiences. I was up and walking as soon as I got home.”

From Health Challenges to Running Races

Nelson, who works in a manufacturing plant, now weighs 175 pounds, which was his initial goal. He says, “I’m active, and I still watch my diet carefully. I measure, weigh and label-read to maintain my current weight.” He is now an avid runner and enjoys running long distances for exercise.

“When I ran my first mile under 45 minutes, I thought it was the biggest accomplishment ever,” he laughs. “I can do a seven-minute mile now.” Nelson has completed an ultra-marathon of 50 miles, along with many 5K and 10K trail runs.

He says, “I get to experience things I couldn’t before or thought I’d never do – trail running, hiking, road running, competing, the things you take for granted. There are things you watch others do when you’re big and think, ‘I could never do that.’ But you can.”

Nelson and his running buddy average runs of 10-30 miles several times per week. He says, “I had to change my diet, control my portions and educate myself on how different foods affect the body. Working out has become a habit – at this point, it’s a given.”

Support After Surgery

Nelson describes the three years since his bariatric surgery as “eye-opening.” He has altered his daily routine to include an exercise regimen and changed his eating habits. His wife and adult children have been his biggest cheerleaders and source of support. “Before, I couldn’t tie my shoes without being out of breath,” he says. “Now I can run for miles. That’s something people take for granted.”

He emphasizes that bariatric surgery is not a “quick fix.” Nelson says, “It takes a lot of work and a lot of discipline. Dr. Colquitt, his team and the support you get through [bariatric surgery at Fort Sanders Regional] is the way to go. The education is there to get you to where you need to be.”

Nelson’s advice? Follow the plan. “I would tell someone who is going through this to follow the plan. The Fort Sanders Regional team and Dr. Colquitt give you a format and a plan to follow. If you follow it, maintain it and are disciplined, then it works. I stayed focused on my goals and I continue to work at it.”

Are You a Candidate for Weight-loss Surgery?

A BMI (Body Mass Index) number above 40 indicates that a person is morbidly obese and may be a candidate for bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery may also be an option for people with a BMI between 35-40 who also suffer from obesity-related health conditions such as diabetes, sleep apnea or heart disease. When other medically supervised methods have failed, bariatric surgery offers the best option for long-term weight control for those with clinically severe obesity.

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea
  • Joint pain
  • Cancer
  • Infertility

Benefits of bariatric surgery:

  • Increased life expectancy
  • Resolution or improvement of obesity-related health conditions
  • Long-term weight loss

For more information, visit Fort Sanders Regional’s bariatric surgery page.

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