Victor before and after

Twenty years ago, a spinal cord injury left Victor wheelchair bound. Victor found himself gaining weight over the years and with limited mobility it became hard for his wife to transfer him to his car, bed, and shower.

He also enjoyed coaching high school sports and being at his grandson’s football games, but as he got heavier, those things became harder. Once he couldn’t play catch with his grandson, he knew he needed to do something about the weight.

Originally, Victor came to bariatric surgeon, Atif Iqbal, M.D., medical director of the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center for hernia surgery. The Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center offers a comprehensive program for the diagnosis and treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), motility disorders, and diseases of the upper gastrointestinal system. The center specializes in minimally invasive and robotic gastrointestinal surgeries.

Dr. Iqbal informed Victor that he could not undergo hernia repair surgery if he didn’t lose weight. Victor explained that he had tried various avenues to lose weight, and nothing was working for him. Dr. Iqbal shared the benefits of surgical weight loss if Victor was willing to make the necessary changes in eating habits.

Victor knew that in order to do this, he had to greatly reduce his alcohol consumption – he was drinking 12 drinks 2 – 3 times per week. That caloric intake was preventing him from losing weight. Victor would also have to lessen junk food and consume smaller portions to go through with the surgery.

After that initial meeting with Dr. Iqbal, Victor felt supported and had the confidence to make the necessary changes to his diet and start his surgical weight-loss journey.

Dr. Iqbal’s staff wants to get to the root of the issues their patients are facing. Together, we determined that surgical weight loss was right for me. There was no pressure, just a conversation.


Victor had a gastric sleeve procedure at the MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center, an Accredited Metabolic and Bariatric Surgical Center with specialized care in minimally invasive bariatric procedures and digestive disorder surgery. At the Surgical Weight Loss Center, patients receive a comprehensive program that includes a dedicated nutritionist for diet guidance, weekly support groups, pre- and post-operative education, and a navigator to assist with coordinating appointments. These highly skilled bariatric surgeons have performed more than 13,000 successful weight-loss surgeries.

After completion of a gastric sleeve procedure, Victor lost 135 pounds.

Gastric sleeve surgery involves stapling approximately 70-80 percent of the stomach's natural capacity without involving the intestinal tract. An advantage of this procedure is that the patient experiences a significant amount of restriction immediately after surgery without having to make manual adjustments as in gastric banding. With a smaller stomach, you will feel full quickly and for a longer period. The lower intake of calories will satisfy your appetite and will cause you to lose weight at the same time.

“Some people tried to tell me that I should have gone through the surgery sooner, but I don’t think I was ready for the surgery 10 years ago,” says Victor. “It was the best surgery I have ever had though. I used to be 336 pounds and now I fluctuate between 192-194 pounds.”

His eating habits have changed drastically after surgery – he no longer consumes junk food, eats smaller portions, and has an alcoholic drink one or two times a month. Wheeling around is much easier, and Victor can attend his grandson’s football games again.

“It’s good to be able to go watch my grandson in action,” says Victor. “I feel like I’m floating on the grass now. The MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center Surgical Weight Loss Center has helped me regain my life.”

Victor is a Social Studies teacher at Bellflower High School for Special Education. It’ll be his 19th year as a teacher, and Victor is the go-to adult for advice at the school. Victor has one piece of advice that he always tells his students:

“We’ve all had hardships, but life is all about adjusting. Nothing stays the same and you need to feel blessed for what you have because there is always someone with nothing.”