Rich Petarca felt that he was fighting a losing battle with obesity, and had struggled with weight issues his entire life. His weight tended to go through “seesaw” patterns, with his highest weight reaching 427 pounds.
Because of his size, Rich could not go to the movies, or sit in a booth at a restaurant. He loves comedy, but when one of his favorite comedians Jerry Seinfeld, came to town, he was unable to attend the show because of his weight.
“People don’t realize what being this overweight can do to your life,” he says.
A teacher at a local school, Mr. Petarca spoke to one of his students whose father had just had bariatric surgery. After doing some research on his own, he decided to explore the option of gastric bypass surgery.
“My philosophy was, there’s nothing else to try,” he says.
After attending a bariatric surgery information session at UPMC Hamot, he was soon scheduled for gastric bypass surgery.
Before he knew it, “the weight started to ‘fly off.’”
Like most patients who go through bariatric surgery, he followed a liquid diet for several weeks after his operation. After transitioning from liquids to soft foods, he ate “normal” foods and had his first real meal on Christmas Eve.
In March 2009, he reached his first milestone and saw a number below 300 pounds on the scale. In February 2010, Mr. Petarca reached his goal weight of 195 pounds, which he continues to maintain.
Losing the weight has changed his physical appearance and his emotional state.
“People still don’t recognize me,” he says. “I had to announce during church that I had just had bariatric surgery because there were so many rumors.”
Now Mr. Petarca makes a conscious effort to choose healthy eating options. Although they used to be his favorite foods, he now stays away from options like pizza, chips, bread, and pasta.
He also is more physically active and fit. He walks thirty minutes a day and visits the gym six days a week.
“I have so much energy,” he says. “The entire process was challenging at times, but I would go through it all again. For the first time in a long time, I can live again.”
Mr. Petarca says none of this would have been possible without the support of his wife Gretchen and his family. With their help and encouragement, he has lost and kept off 232 pounds.
“I have a new lease on life,” he says.
Note: This patient's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.