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Published on September 20, 2013

Healthy Parents, Happy Kids Thanks to Bariatric Surgery

Dan & Kendra Durga, Bariatric Patients

After losing a combined 250 pounds with the help of bariatric surgery, Dan and Kendra Durga of Bay City can now be the type of parents they always wanted to be.

Kendra and Dan Durga of Bay City chose bariatric surgery for three of the best reasons in the world: their children. “We did it for the kids,” Dan said. “At 42 years old, and 453 pounds, I couldn’t even get down on the floor and play with them. It was frustrating because I wanted to do so much more with the kids and I just physically couldn’t.”

“I could see our kids growing up and knowing that the only fun, active things they could do would be with other kids’ families,” Kendra said. “Things like camping and sports. I couldn’t fit in a canoe and I knew we couldn’t walk around for hours at an amusement park. We started to see how our weight would affect their lives.”

Kendra said keeping up with Caleb, five, Cora, 23 months and Cate, 16 months, was exhausting to begin with. “When you’re obese, it’s exhaustion times 10.”

After the couple started their family, issues of weight and health took on a new urgency. “Everything changes when you have kids,” Kendra said. “Dan couldn’t get life insurance because of his weight. I remember crying and thinking, ‘he’s going to die and I won’t be able to care for our family!’”

“I want to be here to take care of my family,” Dan said. “I want to see my kids grow up, go to college and get married. I’d love to see grandkids, and the way I was going, that wasn’t going to happen.”

The couple had worked for years to control their weight. “We tried Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, working out…we tried everything with minimal success,” Dan said. “We had truly done everything imaginable,” Kendra said. “I always lost weight but always gained it back. I began to think nothing would work and wanted to stop trying. After all, who wants to keep failing?”

The Durgas started investigating bariatric surgery last September. After much soul searching, and researching, they chose to undergo sleeve gastrectomy. During this procedure, the stomach is divided into two sections and one section is permanently removed. The remaining portion of the stomach is long and narrow, resembling the shape of a sleeve. A sleeve gastrectomy procedure maintains the basic function of the stomach; however, the volume of food the stomach can handle is significantly reduced, so patients feel full quickly and eat less. On average, patients lose about half of their excess body weight in 12 months.

Bariatric Surgeon Jeffrey Smith, M.D., performed Dan’s surgery on Wednesday, November 14. On December 12, Bariatric Surgeon Jeffrey Bonacci, M.D., performed Kendra’s.

“My surgery was pretty much perfect,” Dan said. “I had the surgery at 4 p.m. and was up walking that evening. I had no pain and went home on Friday.” Kendra had a different experience. “I definitely felt the effects – it was a major surgery after all,” she said. “They stayed on top of my pain though and managed it very well.”

The couple agreed that the support and guidance they received from the surgeons and staff was outstanding. “The doctors were really good. Cheryl and Tracy, who work in their office, were also fantastic,” Dan said. “The amount of information can be overwhelming, and they were so good to help me out when I’d call,” Kendra said. “They were great with the details and working out the insurance. They took some of the stress out of the process.”

“They also taught us good, healthy eating habits,” Kendra said. “Food now takes a different place in life. I remember Cheryl saying the reason you eat changes. I still enjoy food, but now I eat to give my body the protein and vitamins it needs.” 

Dan had no issues at all adjusting to a new way of life. “They gave me a diet, I followed everything to a T, and I have had zero problems. It’s a totally different way of eating and living but I’m much happier now,” he said.

Less than six months after bariatric surgery, Dan had already lost more than 150 pounds and Kendra had dropped 100. She no longer needs medicine for high blood pressure and his chronic knee pain is a thing of the past. “Before, I couldn’t walk around the block,” Dan said. “Now, I can get up and down off the floor and go for a 2-3 mile walk. It was all worth it to be able to hang out and play with my kids.”

“Before, taking the kids for a walk would make me tired and cranky,” Kendra said. “Now I crave exercise. I walk an hour every day -- now I’m crabby if I don’t get my walk!”

Dan and Kendra have no regrets about their decision to pursue bariatric surgery together. “Support is a key thing and I think we’ve been successful because we did it together,” Dan said. “We had each other to lean on.”

“For the first time, I have a reasonable hope of staying at a healthy weight for the rest of my life,” Kendra said. “I feel good and I feel strong.” She is determined to help her children lead an active, healthy life. “I need to do that by example. It’s not what I say, it’s what I do. I want to show them.”

MidMichigan Health offers bariatric surgery in both Midland and Alma. Those who would like more information or a list of upcoming free seminars may call MidMichigan Health Line toll-free at (800) 999-3199 or visit www.midmichigan.org/bariatrics.