Chris Hill can slide right onto a rollercoaster. He finds the seats at Angels Stadium downright roomy. He cycles about 23 miles a day on the vintage beach cruisers that he loves to restore. Life is good.
“Everything is beautiful,” said Hill, who received bariatric surgery from the experts at Hoag’s Digestive Health Institute at the end of 2021. “I feel better than I have in many, many years. I just want to continue to get better.”
Like many people, Hill’s weight crept up on him over time. In his case, he gained around seven pounds a year, every year, since his 30-year-old daughter was born. Long-distance running, cycling, surfing. All the things Hill loved to do eventually faded in the rearview mirror of his life.
He was 63 years-old and 428 pounds. He had developed type 2 diabetes and hypertension. He knew that the way people saw him didn’t match his self-perception.
“There was a lot of shame involved,” he said. “I don’t feel that way now.”
In just 18 months, Hill lost more than 200 pounds, dropping to a weight of 235. His goal of weighing 215 pounds is well within reach. His health is improving, as is his outlook on life.
“I have neighbors stopping me on my ride to ask me how I did it,” Hill said. “I am an ambassador for Hoag.”
Both Hill’s wife, Teresa, and their son work at Hoag. When Hill suggested that he might be open to the idea of bariatric surgery, Teresa recommended Adrian Dobrowolsky, M.D., FACS, FASMBS, Director of the Bariatric Surgery Weight Loss Program at Hoag.
“Finally allowing someone to help out was my biggest thing. Instead of seeing it as something I had to get through on my own, I finally allowed people to come in and help,” Hill said.
In Dr. Dobrowolsky, endocrinologist David Ahn, M.D. – who has managed Hill’s post-surgery metabolic care – and the rest of the medical staff, Hill found people who were trustworthy, helpful and encouraging. The man who had gained weight slowly and suffered silently was suddenly surrounded by a team of experts – physicians, dietician, care counselor — all helping him to shed his weight fast and keep it off.
“The doctors are informative, and the physician’s assistant for Dr. Dobrowolsky is fantastic,” he said. “So are the nurses and the cardiologists. Everyone is very positive.”
Hill said the weight-loss program is thorough and sets patients up for success. To qualify for gastric sleeve bypass surgery, he first had to undergo a mental-health evaluation to make sure he could stick with a new lifestyle for the long haul.
“I was ready for it,” Hill said, “I had reached my wits’ end with my weight.”
An abdominal hernia incurred prior to his bariatric surgery still prevents Hill from enjoying his love of surfing, but his weight loss enables him to have that corrected more safely, and he looks forward to returning to the water. In the meantime, he is walking and cycling daily, eating only the controlled portions that his stomach can handle – and going through dramatic wardrobe changes.
“I have taken to going to thrift stores because when I buy something, a month or two later, it doesn’t fit anymore,” he said. “My energy has come back to me. I don’t have much of any appetite anymore. I get out and do all the things I couldn’t do two years ago.”
After decades of declining health and increasing weight, Hill said gastric bypass surgery at Hoag has given him a whole new lease on life.
“I feel better than I have in 30 years,” he said. “I feel like I have a future.”