Nov. 18, 2019—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 their thirties.
Finally, Mandi told Stephen, “We’re way too young to feel this
way.” In researching their options, Mandi learned about the Southeast
Georgia Health System
Bariatric Surgery Program led by
J. William Tsai, M.D., FACS, a board-certified general surgeon specializing in bariatric surgery.
As Health System 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 continuing to shed 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. To schedule a consultation
with Tsai, call 912-265-5125 or visit
To learn more about the Southeast Georgia Health System Bariatric Program,
join us on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m. for an
Evening of Empowerment, bringing together current bariatric patients and those interested in
learning about weight loss surgery. The event will take place in the Linda
S. Pinson Conference Center on Brunswick Campus, 2415 Parkwood Drive,
Brunswick. Call 855-ASK-SGHS (855-275-7447) to reserve a seat. Walk-ins
are welcome to attend.