Paul gains hope and well-being after bariatric surgery
By the time Paul Auzston was 12, he already weighed 300 pounds. And after graduating from high school at 475 pounds, his weight fluctuated between 350 and 475 pounds during the next three decades.
"I'd been big all of my life," Auzston says. "Over the years of stressing my body with all that weight, my health conditions progressed more rapidly than they probably would have if I'd lived a healthy life."
Diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and arthritis in his back, Auzston, 49, was eventually living in pain that he describes as a 10-plus. Over the years, he went from using a cane to a walker, and eventually he was confined to bed and a wheelchair.
Auzston says he was also suffering from high cholesterol and intermittent chest pain and tightness, even landing in the emergency room several times with symptoms of a heart attack.
"By early last year, I saw no positive outlook for my life. My primary care doctor at MultiCare asked me if I'd ever considered gastric sleeve surgery," Auzston says.
While attending a seminar at MultiCare on bariatric surgery in March 2016, Auzston says that something clicked. And after talking with Jim Sebesta, MD, bariatric surgeon at MultiCare, Auzston had an ah-ha moment.
"Doctors had been telling me for a long time that I would end up dying from my illnesses, likely of a heart attack,” he says. "But when Dr. Sebesta told me the same thing, it finally woke me up."
The right choice at the right time
In July 2016, Auzston had gastric sleeve surgery performed by Dr. Sebesta. The surgery went well and he returned home several days later.
"I had lost all muscle tone from being in a wheelchair for so long, but after I returned home from the surgery, my wife said, 'We're going to make you walk again, one way or another,'" Auzston says.
Since then, Auzston has lost 141 pounds and currently weighs 217 pounds. After participating in water therapy to relearn how to walk, he now walks 3–5 miles each day with his wife and is working with hand weights to rebuild muscle tone. He no longer uses a cane, a walker or a wheelchair.
Auzston also has significantly less pain, likely due to reduced pressure on his bones and joints.
"Now any pain I have is between a two or a three rather than a 10 or more, and the nerve pain I had in my back seems to be gone," he says.
His doctors have told him that any pain he's having now is likely due to the need for greater mobility, flexibility and muscle tone. So he's using weights, planning hikes with his wife for the spring and even looking into a yoga for arthritis class.
Recent blood tests came back looking excellent, and Auzston says his heart is now "healthy as a horse." He no longer needs to take cholesterol medication and is weaning off of his pain medication.
On the cusp of turning 50, Auzston says he now views the milestone in a positive light and has hope for the coming years.
"This surgery saved my life," he says.
A three-point plan for success
Auzston credits three main things to his success: commitment to lifestyle changes, having a strong support system and doing thorough research on doctors and the surgery itself.
"I spent 37 years at over 300 pounds,” he says. “If I can do it, anyone can. But you have to be committed."
Following a bariatric diet and proper bariatric eating techniques is important after surgery to avoid complications and maximize short-term and long-term weight loss.
"This isn't a change for five or 10 years; this is for the rest of your life,” Auzston says. "Once you get healthy, you might feel on top of the world, but if you don't keep good habits in place you could slip back again."
For his support system, Auzston speaks glowingly about his wife and doctors.
"My doctors and my nutritionist at MultiCare have been so wonderful, supportive and caring,” he says. “I wouldn't trade anybody for them. If it hadn't been for them I probably wouldn't have had the surgery and wouldn't be where I am now."