For many people who struggle to maintain a healthy weight, there’s often a moment that sticks with them that prompts a change. For 19-year-old T.J. Robinson, the moment came during his sophomore year of high school when we was diagnosed with pre-diabetes.
“It was definitely a scary thing to hear that I was so close to becoming diabetic due to my past lifestyle choices,” said T.J. “I learned about the Healthy Active Living program through my provider… Both of my parents had bariatric surgery, so they were always open with me about their experience and let me know it was always an option.”
Bariatric surgery wasn’t T.J.’s first choice for losing weight. He went on his first diet at age 11. Every year after, he tried a new weight loss program or tactic, but each time he’d struggle to keep the weight off or he’d gain more weight back.
“T.J. has shown initiative and commitment to his health with his decision to pursue bariatric surgery,” said Mark Wulkan, MD, FACS, FAAP, Bruce F. Rothmann, M.D. Chair in Pediatric Surgery at Akron Children’s Hospital. “The surgery is only part of the program. Each member of the Healthy Active Living team plays an important role, and we are committed to helping our patients succeed.”
The Akron Children’s Hospital Healthy Active Living program offers bariatric surgery for adolescents with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 kg/m2 or higher – or a BMI of at least 35 kg/m2 with one or more weight-related health problems. Through a team approach, the program helps patients improve their overall health and quality of life by achieving a healthier body weight.
T.J. met with his bariatric surgery team monthly for coaching on lifestyle changes, as well as medical evaluations to ensure his health would not be compromised by the surgery.
“There’s a big focus on prep and practice for the lifestyle I was going to be living after surgery,” said T.J. “At every check-in, I would get weighed and meet with my psychologist, nutritionist, general doctor, exercise doctor and other specialists as needed. They educated me on all the steps I needed to take to be successful post-op.”
While the program puts an emphasis on nutrition and physical activity, it also focuses on the mental stamina needed before and after surgery.
“I met with my psychologist often because bariatric surgery is just as much, if not more, a mental challenge as it is a physical one,” added T.J. “More than the surgery itself, I was afraid of the risk of gaining the weight back due to not staying with the lifestyle change…Every member of my team was very supportive and encouraging, which has helped me continue even during times of uncertainty.”
Today, T.J. is a music education major at Cleveland State University and is committed to eating right and staying active 3-5 times a week.
“I have never felt healthier in my life and I love it,” said T.J. “My self-esteem and overall confidence have definitely improved, and I can now do things that would have never been a reality for me a year ago. I am still a work in progress, but it has changed my life for the better.”
For families considering bariatric surgery for their child, T.J. has some words of advice.
“Sit down with your child and understand his perspective on his overall health and self-esteem. It is important that surgery is something a child wants for himself, not just the parents,” said T.J. “Most importantly, be present! This surgery and program is definitely not one to go at alone…all of the connections, education and experiences I gained with this program have been crucial to my success.”
For more information on Akron Children’s Healthy Active Living or Bariatric Surgery Program, call 330-543-5673.