Wake-up call leads to change

Kerby Mellott enjoyed being physically active all his life. When he was younger, Kerby loved to play sports. Tall, lean and athletic in his youth, Kerby was a high school state basketball team champion and played for his college’s championship football team.

Kerby Mellott before and afterAfter college, he began steadily gaining weight. A Kansas native and self-proclaimed “meat-and-potatoes guy,” Mellott was comfortable with his larger physique.

“I didn’t mind being barrel-chested and thick-calved,” he said. “In fact, I was very comfortable being a bigger guy.”

However, Mellott’s attitude about his weight began to change when, at age 49, he began experiencing chest pains after working out at the gym. Because his father had passed away at age 48 from a massive heart attack, he feared that he would share the same fate.

As Mellott suspected, he did have a serious heart condition. His physicians told him he had suffered a mild heart attack. They also informed him that three of his arteries were 60 percent to 90 percent clogged and required immediate angioplasty. A few months after the angioplasty procedure, one of his arteries collapsed. His doctors said he needed heart bypass surgery.

After undergoing triple bypass surgery, Mellott lost nearly 70 lbs. through dieting. Unfortunately, seven years later he had gained all the weight back and more. His weight had ballooned to 315 lbs. and again he began experiencing chest pains during any physical exertion — even walking up a flight of stairs. A new angiogram showed that one of his bypasses was occluded, requiring another angioplasty to widen his artery. His cardiologist warned him that if he wanted to be around in five years, he needed to lose 100 lbs.

Mellott talked to a friend who had undergone a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and was doing well. He decided to make an appointment with Dr. Ninh Nguyen, director of the UCI Health bariatric surgery program.

“Dr. Nguyen was extremely professional and knowledgeable,” Mellott said. “His confidence in the success of the surgery put my mind at ease.” On Oct. 10, 2003, Mellott underwent the Roux-en-Y procedure. Sixty days after surgery, he had lost 60 lbs. After one year, his weight dropped another 125 lbs. — which was almost too thin for his body frame. Since then, he has maintained a healthy weight of 225 lbs.

Now in his 60s, Mellott feels great. He works out three to four times a week at the gym. His surgery was such a success that other friends and family members have either had bariatric surgery or are seriously considering it.

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