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Dann Brown’s weight struggles were a family tradition. “Mom always said that our family doesn’t have any huge vices, but we do love our food!” A regular jogger, he kept his weight in check until a serious, lengthy illness sidelined him during college. Although he eventually recovered, he never resumed running.
Over the next three decades, Dann’s weight fluctuated as he tried one diet, then another. “I could lose weight, but couldn’t keep it off,” he says. By age 55, he weighed 310 pounds, had a BMI of 42, and was taking 20-plus pills daily to manage high cholesterol, high blood sugar, depression, sleep apnea, and joint pain. When his doctor said he needed to go on insulin, “I knew I had to do something drastic,” he says.
Diabetes was another family tradition that left his grandparents, parents, and two brothers insulin-dependent. To avoid that fate, Dann took his doctor’s advice and attended an information session led by bariatric surgeon Christopher J. Myers, MD, at UPMC Horizon.
By the time of the information meeting, Dann already had managed to lose weight and get his BMI down around 40. He initially didn’t qualify for surgery, but his diabetes diagnosis and other obesity-related health concerns made him eligible. After six months of classes, dietician meetings, support groups, and evaluations, he was approved for surgery. When Dann underwent gastric sleeve surgery in July 2015, he weighed 270 pounds.
Since then, he’s lost another 57 pounds and eliminated all medicines, except for vitamins and an over-the-counter pill for stomach acid. His blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure are now normal. He no longer has sleep apnea and his pain is gone. “Diabetes isn’t something I have to worry about now,” says Dann.
The college communication professor says he no longer naps, rarely sits during his classes now, and thinks more clearly. “It was like waking from a fog,” Dann says. Now energized, he walks up to a mile a day, takes the stairs instead of the elevator, and aspires to run a 5K. When he came to class wearing new clothes and told students about his 97-pound weight loss, they applauded.
But the highlight of his weight loss journey came in November when he traveled to Las Vegas for an annual convention. The reaction of colleagues was “priceless,” says Dann. “Hearing them acknowledge what I did for my health — and serving as an example for my students — was really life-affirming.”