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Thirty-six-old Ryan Bessette had been heavy his whole life. He has battled his weight since his early teens, which has affected him both physically and emotionally.
"I led a very active life, despite being heavy," says Ryan. "I tried my best to not let it hold me back. What I didn’t realize was just how much it was holding me back!"
Ryan started working at his family’s glass installation company in Fitchburg during his sophomore year of high school and continued there full time after graduation.
"Working hard helped keep me in shape, but as the years passed I worked my way into the office. The lack of physical work without changing my eating and exercise habits just killed me. I ballooned up to 402 pounds. I tried the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers and the South Beach diet. I hit the gym and I walked, but nothing worked. I turned to my doctor who suggested I look into weight loss surgery."
Because of his weight gain, Ryan had to stop participating in many of his favorite activities such as golfing and hunting.
"All I had to turn to was fishing…even at 400 pounds you can stand on the boat and hold a fishing pole,” says Ryan. “I got my United States Coast Guard License and started a charter fishing business – Black Dog Charters. My glass business was successful, my family was good, my dog was happy, my fishing business was flourishing – everything in my life seemed to be doing great – except the most important thing…ME!"
One day out on his boat, Ryan realized that his best friend and first mate Dennis was always the one cleaning the topside and bow. Ryan’s weight only allowed him to wash a tiny piece of the stern.
"It just hit me. After everything else that I chose to ignore, that moment hit me,” says Ryan. “I had sleep apnea so bad, I barely slept. I was never comfortable. I was breathing heavy all the time. I sweat on a 30-degree day. My blood pressure was climbing. A set of stairs was agony. I was wearing 46-30 jeans and 4XL shirts. I was miserable. I sat on the edge of my boat and cried."
At the recommendation of a friend, Ryan went to Newton-Wellesley Hospital to discuss weight loss surgery. After meeting with Sheila Partridge, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Weight Loss Surgery, he immediately started the program.
"I went to every meeting and attended every class. I started to realize I was putting a passion into me for a change and it felt good,” says Ryan. "In one of my meetings with Dr. Partridge, we spoke very candidly. After our discussion, I knew I was in the right hands. I wasn’t just a number or a file to her. I was a patient and she cared!"
Ryan had his weight loss surgery on March 19, 2007.
"When I was rolled into the operating room I honestly felt so positive about the whole process from everything I had learned in the classes. I felt if they had given me the tools, I could assist with the surgery! I knew so much about what we were doing – pre-op, post-op and long term."
When he woke up in recovery, Ryan felt great and ready to start his journey towards transforming his life.
"They rolled me to my room and as I was being helped into my bed I asked if I could take a walk! The nurses were nervous and said it’s a little early, but a familiar voice from behind me said, 'if he wants to walk, let him walk, in fact, I will go with him.' So Dr. Partridge, still in her OR outfit, walked with me for a couple laps around the nurses station and the rest is history."
When Ryan got home he walked two miles every day and kept a spreadsheet of his food intake and exercise. He started communicating with peers that had the surgery and also offered to talk with anyone considering surgery.
"I healed so fast. I was the shrinking man and going through clothes like you would not believe," adds Ryan. "I know I’m a guy, but let me tell you, shopping isn’t just for women. It was fun! When you wear a 4XL shirt and 46-30 pants, it doesn’t really matter what they look like on you."
Now, one year later, Ryan is 200 pounds! He has dropped 16 pant sizes and has traded in his size 46-30's for 30-32's.
"I am so active now it’s borderline amazing. I learned to snowboard. I cross country ski, swim, hike and downhill ski. I kayak every weekend. I do 30 to 40 miles a week on my mountain bike."
His family and friends have been amazed at his new energy level and excitement about enjoying life and taking part in new activities.
"When people ask where my energy comes from I tell them, tomorrow, go to the grain store, and buy two, 100-pound bags of feed. Put one on each shoulder then go about your daily activities," says Ryan. "Live your normal life with 200 pounds of weight strapped to your body for 10 to 15 years then take them off and tell me how you feel. It’s kind of like that!"
While Ryan enjoys his new active lifestyle and is committed to keeping up his physical activity, he has also seen many health improvements since his weight-loss surgery.
"My sleep apnea machine gathers dust, and has been since surgery. I sleep like a rock! I don’t even snore anymore. My blood work is exemplary. My cholesterol is a shocking 103 and my blood pressure is 120/80 every time!"
For Ryan, the health benefits of weight loss surgery have given him back his quality of life.
"Every breath I take I enjoy again. Dr. Partridge saved my life. She always says I’m doing all the work, and although I am working hard, without the jumpstart that this surgery gives, I would probably be in serious, morbid health right now – if not dead. I have finally taken back my life. I wake up feeling so good every day – it’s just miraculous."
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