Life-Changer Times Two

Surgeon says couples see great results with help from Fort Sanders Bariatrics Center

Teaming up for weight loss is a great way to reach healthy goals. Just ask Fort Sanders Regional bariatric surgeon Mark Colquitt, MD, who has witnessed the power of pairs.

“I enjoy taking care of couples because they do so well together,” Dr. Colquitt says. “They’re helping each other and coaching each other through the process.”

JT and Laura Rodriguez can testify that he’s right. They have lost a combined total of more than 200 pounds after undergoing procedures at the Fort Sanders Center for Bariatric Surgery. The center is accredited as a Comprehensive Center under the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement program. 

Laura’s Story

Classified as morbidly obese at 285 pounds, Laura Rodriguez knew her weight was a problem. She felt the pressure on her knees and her back. She felt the emotional weight of anxiety and depression.

Laura and her husband had talked about getting healthy for their kids, but the weight-loss plans she had tried in the past had all fallen short.

“About all my adult life I’ve tried diets,” Laura says. “I might lose a few pounds, but I would gain back more than I lost.”

The wake-up call came when she was scheduled for back surgery. She was told her extra weight reduced her chances of a successful procedure by 50 percent.

Hearing about that risk factor caused something to click inside Laura, and she was determined to make a change. A friend recommended the gastric sleeve procedure, which works by reducing the stomach to about 15 percent of its original size.

After asking questions and doing her own research, Laura had the procedure at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in December 2021.

“I feel so much better!” Laura says. “After I lost about 30 or 40 pounds, I had relief in my knees and my back pain is completely gone.”

Within two months of the procedure, she was off her medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol. She’s 95 pounds lighter and is enjoying an active life with her husband and children.

“Honestly, I feel like a new person,” Laura says. “I told my husband we should renew our vows, because we are kind of new people.”

Changes in her lifestyle have been necessary to lose the weight and keep it off, but they are good changes and Laura has absolutely no regrets.

“I would recommend it, 100 percent,” Laura says. “I would, a thousand times, do it over again.”

JT’s Story

John Thaxton Rodriguez, who goes by “JT,” wasn’t immediately on board when his wife wanted to sign up for a bariatric procedure, but he knew in his heart he had to do something drastic as well.

“I was 389 pounds. I could hardly keep up with my kids, and I want to be able to see my grandkids one day,” he says. “I don’t want to die of a heart attack at 42 because of the lifestyle choices I’ve made.”

JT and Laura have four children, ages 8, 10, 13 and 18, and the couple agreed that becoming healthier parents was important. He attended appointments and support classes with her and paid attention to the diet she was prescribed.

“Sitting in the support groups and talking to people who had already been through it brought me comfort and I thought, ‘I can do this,’” JT says. “I went ahead and put myself on the pre-op diet, and from December to March I lost 60 pounds.”

Since undergoing the gastric sleeve procedure in March 2022, he’s lost more than 100 additional pounds, putting the number on the scales at 10 pounds less than what he weighed in high school.

“I’m able to do so much that I couldn’t do before,” JT says. “It feels amazing!”

His initial goal was to be able to keep up with his kids, but now JT says the kids are the ones who have trouble keeping up. At the end of family hikes, he still has the energy to go the extra mile, and for the first time in a long time, he can run.

“I could not say enough good things about Dr. Colquitt and his team,” JT says. “They have changed my life for the better!”

To learn more about weight-loss procedures at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, visit or call 865-541-4500.


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