Health System Couple Embrace Better Health After Bariatric Surgery

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

Mandi and Stephen TaylorThe 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.