Weight loss surgery offers a new beginning

Bariatric surgery success story with Randy

Randy Cole photo with golf club

As a former Marine and an avid competitor in sports like golf and tennis, Randy Cole saw obesity as a challenge. He wanted to lose weight and get back into playing shape on his own.

A few wakeup calls caused him to change course.

The first came in 2001 when he had to undergo a heart catheterization.

“Fortunately, I did not have a blockage,” says the 57-year-old from Solon, Iowa. “But I was about 300 pounds. My cardiologist recommended bariatric surgery.”

Randy elected to try diet and exercise instead.

“My weight went up and down like a roller coaster, probably ranging from 250 to 300 pounds,” he says.

About nine years later, a family physician echoed the warning Randy had heard from his cardiologist: Because of his high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a family history of diabetes and heart disease, Randy’s health was at risk. This doctor also suggested bariatric surgery.

Randy scheduled an appointment at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, but he wasn’t convinced.

“I went through an orientation and watched a video,” he says. “I opted to try diet and exercise again.”

From 2010 to 2013, he remained heavy. He couldn’t swing a golf club without adjusting for his abdomen. His 12-mile bike rides were a distant memory. He wore a CPAP mask at night because of sleep apnea.

“I struggled to do the things I enjoyed,” Randy says. “My stamina, endurance, and performance were lacking. I was often winded. I was also no longer able to run or jog.”

Even walks with his wife, Lisa, became a source of unhappiness.

“I could not keep up with her,” he says. “I would send her ahead.”

And when Lisa told him she was concerned about his weight, he accused her of worrying too much about his appearance.

“I guess I was sick of being morbidly obese, sick of feeling tired, sick of no energy, and frustrated with conflict in my marriage,” he says.

At 300 pounds, he sought another opinion. A visit with a friend who is also a counselor finally gave him the incentive he needed.

“The counselor challenged me to lose weight, anyway, saying that I really could not argue with the fact that I would be healthier, regardless of appearance,” he says.

Randy returned to the UI and committed to the bariatric surgery program. He lost 60 pounds to qualify for surgery in June 2013. A month after surgery, he was down to 215. Three years later, with continued dedication to an exercise and nutrition regimen—and with occasional visits to the UI’s weight loss support group—he’s at 179.

“It was one of the best decisions I made in my life,” he says. “I weigh today what I weighed when I separated from active duty with the Marine Corps and went to the ready reserves 37 years ago.”

Randy encourages others to appreciate the value of being able to reach out for the help that’s available.

“As kids, none of us had a goal of becoming morbidly obese,” Randy says. “It is a complex, complicated health issue that embodies us not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We need to heal completely—mind, body, and spirit.”

To get back the things that he loved, Randy learned to commit to long-term lifestyle changes. He recommends the same to anyone considering bariatric surgery.

“It isn’t a miracle cure,” he says. “But for those of us who have been morbidly obese for decades, it is an opportunity at a new beginning!”