Tazewell First Responder Loses 150 Pounds After Bariatric Surgery

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First responder Robby Brumbach has a zest for life. The 48-year-old says he became an emergency medicine (EMS) professional because his calling is to help people. However, after many years with a stressful job and the hectic schedule of a first responder in Claiborne County, he found himself eating at odd hours and often grabbing fast food so he could move quickly to the next life-saving endeavor. He gained weight, began to suffer from health issues and struggled with daily tasks like lifting patients into the ambulance.

Feeling “Weighed Down”

At his highest weight, Brumbach, who is 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighed 287 pounds and had a BMI of over 52. His suggested healthy BMI range is between 25-30.

“It got to the point where it was hard to get out bed. I was miserable. I was always tired and feeling sleepy, and any walking or standing became a chore,” Brumbach says. “I also developed other health issues like sleep apnea, high blood pressure and vitamin deficiency. I was close to becoming diabetic, so that’s why I got help.”

In May 2022, Brumbach talked with his primary care physician, who recommended he take action, including considering weight-loss surgery.

Weight-Loss Surgery at Parkwest Medical Center

K. Robert Williams, MD

After some research, Brumbach discovered the Parkwest Center for Bariatric Surgery at Parkwest Medical Center in West Knoxville. His bariatric surgeon was K. Robert Williams, MD.

“Many of the medical comorbidities Robby was suffering from, like high blood pressure and sleep apnea, are caused or worsened by being overweight,” Dr. Williams says. “Weight gain can cause our hormones and other functions to fall out of equilibrium and cause diabetes or arthritis, and these systemic inflammatory factors can even put a patient at risk for some cancers.”

The Gastric Sleeve Procedure

In November 2022 Brumbach had a sleeve gastrectomy or “gastric sleeve” procedure. He says Dr. Williams explained the surgery in an understandable way and “had a great bedside manner. He was an awesome doctor.”

The gastric sleeve procedure restricts food intake and leads to weight loss. Part of the stomach is removed, and the remaining portion of the stomach is formed into a tube called a sleeve. The small intestine is not affected or changed. After surgery, the patient feels full even after eating less food.

Brumbach says he doesn’t remember much from surgery day, “but I do remember they helped me walk not long after I woke up.” He stayed one night at the hospital. “The nurses at Parkwest were amazing. I requested a chaplain to come pray with us and she did. That was a wonderful experience. I can’t say enough about how good they were to me. Everyone did an exceptional job.”

Brumbach had lost 50 pounds while preparing for surgery, so he weighed 237 pounds on the day of his operation. Since then, Brumbach has lost 100 more pounds, getting him back to his “high school weight” of 137.

“Education and compliance are paramount to success, especially with the sleeve,” explains Dr. Williams. “Robby was laser-focused on his goals, which helped him get there. When a patient is committed to changing their lifestyle and open to the educational tools, then the success rate is high. He did well with surgery and has successfully kept the weight off. He’s doing great.”

I Feel Wonderful”

“I feel wonderful,” Brumbach says. “I no longer take any medication other than my vitamins and calcium.” He changed his eating habits and says, “I weigh everything I eat and I look at nutrition info like calories. I make sure to meal prep and I’m always looking for recipes and tricks to make things taste better. I even made my own ice cream recently that was high protein-low calorie . . . but it still needs tweaking,” he laughs. Brumbach also walks several miles a week, and often walking with his wife Jessica when the weather is pleasant.

After 30 years as a paramedic, Brumbach also has transitioned into an administrative role as an operations supervisor with his ambulance company, which has lowered his stress level. He oversees a team of 15 employees and three trucks in Bell County, where he lives.

“It’s amazing that I’ve come this far and lost this weight, but I kept thinking, ‘I will.’ And now, I have,” he says.

A Mindset Shift for Better Health

“My advice for others considering this [weight-loss surgery] is just to know it will change your life,” Brumbach says. “But you have to want to do it. You have to change your mindset. If you want to feel better and put in the work, it will make you feel wonderful.”

Dr. Williams concurs. “Weight-loss surgery is not a cosmetic operation or quick fix,” he says. “It’s fulfilling to see people get their quality of life back and do things they hadn’t been able to do before.”

Brumbach adds, “Before surgery, I worried about my health all the time. I went from struggling to climb into an ambulance and getting short of breath walking up a small hill to walking and moving around with no problem. I invested in myself and my health – now, I feel physically as good as I did in my 20s!”

Learn more about bariatric services at Parkwest Medical Center or call 865-373-1000. You can also view our online seminar information.

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