For his wedding in August 2007, Darin Holt wore a size 50 pants and a 4X shirt. Though he weighed more than 400 pounds, the 40-year-old Costa Mesa resident seemed strong and healthy. But according to his doctor, Darin's weight made him a prime candidate for a heart attack and early death.
With everything to live for, Darin and his new wife, Rhonda, made a life-changing decision. A few months after their marriage, both underwent gastric bypass surgery at Orange Coast Memorial. Since then, the couple have lost a combined total of 345 pounds— nearly half their former weight. They have also seen most of their health problems vanish, including Darin's sleep apnea.
"With sleep apnea, you briefly stop breathing dozens of times a night," he explains. "I used to need a machine to help me breathe while I slept. But after I lost the first 75 pounds, the sleep apnea just disappeared."
Success stories like the Holts' are nothing new for their surgeon, Peter LePort, M.D., medical director of the MemorialCare Center for Obesity at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center and a renowned bariatric (weight-loss) pioneer. Dr. LePort says that many patients lose about 50 percent of their excess weight in the first two years after surgery.
As the pounds drop, so does the risk of diabetes, heart disease and many cancers. Some conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, often go into complete remission.
Dr. LePort emphasizes that weight-loss surgery isn't for people who want to drop a dress size or two. "Our program is designed for individuals who are 75 pounds or more overweight. For these patients, traditional weight-loss methods are rarely successful. If sensible diets and exercise have failed, then surgery may be the answer."
Orange Coast Memorial offers several approaches to weight-loss surgery. All limit the amount of food that can be eaten. The most common procedure is gastric bypass, which involves creating a walnut-sized pouch at the top of the stomach and attaching it to the lower part of the small intestine. Fewer calories are absorbed through this new passageway. Although complex, gastric bypass produces the best long-term results. The procedure is performed laparoscopically, using video cameras and small instruments. For most patients, this means a faster, less painful recovery with minimal scarring.
Laparoscopic gastric banding is a less invasive option that uses an inflatable band placed around the upper portion of the stomach to restrict food intake. A newer operation, sleeve gastrectomy, surgically removes part of the stomach, but unlike gastric bypass, doesn't reroute the intestinal tract.
Orange Coast Memorial is a Center of Excellence certified by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. This designation recognizes centers that offer the highest level of surgical expertise and patient care, including educational, psychological, nutritional and emotional support, both before and after surgery. All together, Dr. LePort's group has performed more than 8,000 weight-loss procedures.
A New Outlook
Ultimately, the program's success depends on the patient. "You have to be ready to change your life," Darin says. "You can't pig out like you used to. After surgery, your stomach only holds an ounce or two, so you have to be careful."
Darin, who has devoted his life to helping special needs children and adults, says he is overwhelmingly grateful to Dr. LePort. "I can't thank him enough. I literally owe him my life. I don't ever want to go back to weighing 412 pounds. I plan to stay this way and hopefully inspire more people."