Area couple gains new lease on life following gastric bypass surgeries

<p>Al and Monica Rafferty hold up a picture of what they looked like before the couple both underwent gastric bypass surgery earlier in the summer.</p>

Al and Monica Rafferty hesitate to identify one singular moment in their lives that inspired them to undergo gastric bypass surgery together.

The Hermiston couple said, instead, it was what the future promised to be without the surgery that motivated them: a future where food remained an obsession and a primary motivating factor in their lives; a future where the act of simply walking to the car from the front door of a restaurant was an exhaustive exercise; a future where they weren’t able to play with their daughter, now 5.

The Raffertys decided they were not willing to accept that fate.

Five months after their life-changing surgeries, they are on track to resume a healthy life and return to the playground. Before the procedure, Al Rafferty weighed 320 pounds, while Monica hovered around 270. Now, Al is at his target weight of 180, and Monica weighs 195 pounds and is still shedding them.

“I have a 5-year-old daughter who is just starting to get active, and I wasn’t going to be able to do things with her,” Monica Rafferty said. “I did this for me, so I would feel better, but I also did it for my family — so I could go on field trips with her, take her to Disneyland and fit in the rides. I needed to take better care of myself, and I needed help to do it.”

Al Rafferty shared many of the same motivations as his wife. The thought of missing out on quality time with his daughter was an element that figured heavily into his thinking, he said.

“It was hard to go out and play with my daughter,” Al Rafferty said. “I was a very active person. When I was in the Marines, I was 180 pounds. Two years ago I was over 320 pounds. There wasn’t one moment for me. There was a whole bunch of moments.”

The couple decided to undergo a procedure known as gastric bypass. Gastric bypass procedures are any of a group of surgeries in which the stomach is divided into smaller sections and the small intestine is rearranged and attached to the smaller section of the stomach.

According to the website of Legacy Health in Portland, where the Raffertys had their procedures, the average patient permanently loses 50 to 70 percent of excess weight in the first 12 months.

Al Rafferty said,= the average patients’ stomach goes from the size of a football to the size of a golf ball. The result is simple, they feel full after a few bites and when combined with vitamins and other supplements, a complete and healthy diet is possible on very little solid food. Nerves that tell the brain the body is full are stimulated when a small amount of food is introduced. The resulting sensation is they feel full, as if they had eaten a large meal but with just a few ounces of actual food.

The Raffertys said the surgery has not only resulted in positive physical changes in them but mental and emotional developments as well. The couple has changed when, how and what they eat. Al Rafferty said his entire philosophy on food has changed.

“I eat food now for what it is — nutrition, not because I’m sad, not because I’m mad, not because I’m happy, not because everyone else is doing it,” he said. “This allows me to make the right decision. With this tool of weight loss surgery, it’s not going to let me overeat. It’s not going to let me make a bad decision. It’s going to help me make the right decision.”

 Monica Rafferty said making the mental and emotional adjustments in her attitude toward food has been easy.

“I think the surgery itself provides the support you need,” she said. “When I would try to diet, you are always hungry. That hunger never went away. After the surgery, I don’t have that. You still have to change your behavior, but if you don’t have physical issues fighting against you it helps a lot.”

The Raffertys said the results of the GBP has been nothing short of remarkable.

“(My) energy is incredible,” Al Rafferty said. “I have more energy now than I’ve ever had. The last time I flew, for the first time in 15 years, I fit in the seat. People who aren’t overweight don’t understand. Walking to the car used to exhaust me. Now I have the energy and ability to help around the house, go push my daughter on her bike, go play basketball or soccer or Frisbee with her. Whatever she wants to go do, Dad will go do now. My only regret is I didn’t do this sooner.”

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