Most couples find it hard enough to schedule date night let alone life-changing
surgery. However, when you’re as passionate about your health as
Kingsland, Georgia, couple Mandi and Stephen Taylor, you make finding
time a priority. For several years, the Taylors had struggled with their
weight and associated health issues: pre-diabetes, hypertension, sleep
apnea and high cholesterol. Exhaustion was a constant companion. Juggling
work and family responsibilities were difficult, even for a couple in
Finally, Mandi told Stephen, “We’re way too young to feel this
way.” In researching their options, Mandi learned about the Health
Bariatric Surgery Program led by
J. William Tsai, M.D., FACS. Tsai is a surgeon with
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-General & Vascular Surgery. As Southeast Georgia Health System
Camden Campus team members themselves, it seemed like a perfect fit.
Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, removes a small section of the stomach
to restrict food intake. To qualify, patients must weigh at least 20%
more than what is considered standard for their height. Each potential
patient undergoes six months of counseling, nutrition classes and support
groups to develop the necessary lifestyle changes. Although not required,
most participants continue attending support groups after surgery.
A Built-in Support System
Stephen agreed to laparoscopic gastric sleeve surgery but was reluctant
to have his procedure the same day as his wife. Mandi, on the other hand,
thought otherwise. “I said, ‘Let’s do it together and
be a support system for each other,’” she recalls. Her instincts
were correct. “To go through bariatric surgery and support each
other as a couple has been an amazing journey.”
Thanks to Tsai and six months of preparation, the Taylors knew what to
expect. “Dr. Tsai says you have to want to help yourself. It’s
not going to be a lasting change unless you watch your diet and exercise.
If you follow the program suggestions, it works,” Mandi says.
Embracing the Challenge
The Taylors “all in” attitude is evident. “We split
portions when eating out. We don’t deny ourselves. If we’re
at a birthday party, we’ll split a small piece of cake. Your taste
buds change, though, when you start eating healthy. I don’t do sodas,
fried foods or bread anymore. Our kids even eat zucchini noodles now,”
Mandi says. On Sundays, the couple go into “meal plan and prep mode,”
preparing and portioning out healthy meals for the week ahead. Despite
their busy schedules, they also exercise daily.
A New Lease on Life
The Taylors’ efforts are paying off. Before surgery last December,
Mandi weighed 240 pounds. She’s now 138. Stephen weighed 390; he’s
now 288 and gradually shedding pounds. Their blood glucose and cholesterol
levels are now normal. While Stephen is still working on losing weight,
his fatty liver disease has resolved. He is also off blood pressure medication
and no longer needs his CPAP machine.
“We have much more energy and a better outlook on life. We’re
planning to do the Health System’s 2020 Bridge Run and go hiking
in the mountains next spring,” Mandi says. At work, she is a role
model for others struggling with obesity. “The nurses show patients
how I used to look compared to now,” Mandi says. “It’s
pretty incredible, and hopefully, inspiring.”
The Taylors have a family history of heart disease. Taking control of their
weight and lifestyle changed their destiny. They gave each other and their
children the most precious gift of all: health.