At 6-feet-3-inches tall and 200 hundred pounds overweight, Jake Smith was tired — tired of being the “big dude,” tired of not being able to keep up with his friends, tired of feeling lousy.
“I had my whole life ahead of me; something had to change,” says Jake.
With mounting health issues, including high blood pressure and sleep apnea, the 25-year-old New Castle resident made the tough decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery. In one year, he lost 183 pounds, dropped his jean size from 48/50 to 36/38, and saw his blood pressure plummet to 116/66.
“Everything changed,” says Jake. “I feel amazing and I’m so glad I did it.”
As a child, Jake Smith was always the biggest kid in class. In grade school he had to kneel for soccer photos to match his teammates in height. Despite his husky build, he was active throughout high school, playing sports, hunting, and fishing. By senior year he no longer was the tallest, but he was the heaviest as his weight edged up to 280 pounds.
“I could still keep up with my skinny, fit buddies until my 20s,” says Jake. “Then my weight really started to be a problem.”
A Wake-Up Call
After two years of college, Jake earned his commercial driver’s license and began working as a truck driver.
“I love driving trucks but sitting behind the wheel took its toll,” he says.
By the time he was 25, he weighed over 400 pounds, making it too difficult to play softball and basketball with friends. The real eye-opener came when his buddies picked up biking.
“I realized even if I could find a bike that could hold a 400-pound dude, it would be impossible to keep up,” says Jake. “I didn’t feel good, I was always tired, and not sleeping well.”
A visit to his family physician revealed he was prediabetic and had high blood pressure; additional testing showed he had sleep apnea.
“It was a big wake up call. My doctor warned me I’d be on blood pressure pills — and worse — if I didn’t do something,” Jake says.
A Big Decision
Knowing other family members and friends who’d undergone successful bariatric surgery, Jake decided to attend an information session at the Bariatric Surgery Center at UPMC Jameson. He then completed a six-month program, including meeting with a nutritionist.
“The nutritionist was a huge help,” says Jake. “I had been eating wrong my whole life. She taught me a lot and prepared me well.”
Still, things did not go smoothly at first. At his second weigh-in, Jake found out he’d actually gained three pounds — topping out at 413 pounds with a BMI of 52.32.
“I was being lazy and not taking it seriously. I had to get my act together,” says Jake.
With a renewed commitment, Jake became more mindful of his diet and began incorporating exercise into his daily routine, including working out in his hotel room while on the road. He was down 30 pounds by the time he underwent a gastric sleeve procedure in June 2018, performed by UPMC bariatric surgeon Christopher Myers, MD.
A New Lifestyle
Over the next eight months, Jake dropped another 150 pounds — getting down to 230 pounds and a much healthier BMI of 28.7. He’s no longer prediabetic and no longer has high blood pressure or sleep apnea. He maintains his weight loss by exercising at least four times a week — at home and on the road — and following a healthy low carb/low fat/high protein diet. He now dreams of running a half marathon and biking across the state.
“Everything is easier now — getting in and out of my car, putting my shoes on, doing things with my friends,” says Jake. “But looking in the mirror and feeling so much healthier — that’s the biggest highlight for me.”
Note: This patient’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.