Big Ron

LaVonna hated her husband’s nickname “Big Ron” because of what it represented to her, a husband who was eating himself to death, literally.

Big Ron didn’t see it that way. He was enjoying donuts, fried chicken and other high-calorie foods in large proportions. He’d been raised to always clean his plate. As a truck driver, Ron didn’t get much exercise and the weight gain didn’t hinder his ability to successfully navigate an 80,000-pound rig.

Then about 12 years ago before his 50th birthday, he had what doctors first thought was a heart attack, but what turned out to be kidney failure. He discovered he needed a kidney transplant and was placed on the donor list. He went on dialysis that at its peak, included eight hours of treatment per day, three days per week. He became extremely lethargic, had to quit his job and slept up to 20 hours a day.

LaVonna said Ron would only get out of bed to eat and shower. When people came over to visit, he’d get up to see them but as soon as they’d leave, he’d go back to bed.

“It made me mad,” LaVonna said.

This also affected his relationship with his teenage daughter.

“He probably spent only four years in her life,” LaVonna said because of the amount of time he spent in bed. People asked LaVonna if she was a single parent because they never saw Ron at their daughter’s school functions. In his defense, Ron says he was sick and tired all the time.

To receive a kidney transplant, doctors told Ron he needed to lose weight and lots of it. He tried several weight loss plans, directed by doctors and dieticians, throughout a 10- year period. All failed. In fact, he continued to gain weight, reaching more than 400 pounds.

“I was scared for him,” LaVonna said.

At one point, Ron spent a month on life support in the hospital. He says he would often talk about death, as dying seemed better than living. He was in and out of the hospital and had multiple surgeries. It wasn’t until he ran out of options, LaVonna says, that he took the advice of someone from the dialysis center and inquired about Bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery is often a last resort for people seeking drastic weight loss. Bariatric surgery includes reducing the size of the stomach and/or rerouting the small intestine to reduce the patient’s appetite.

He began searching for a Bariatric surgeon and was rejected by several because of the risk he brought. He had severe scarring in his abdomen and had other health issues that made him a high-risk patient. He finally found Dr. Charles Callery and Palomar Health.

“There’s a special place in heaven for Dr. Callery,” Ron says.

Dr. Callery did some research and couldn’t find any case history of patients who had Bariatric surgery with similar complications to Ron. However, he agreed to perform the surgery with two caveats: Ron had to lose 40 pounds and he would abort the surgery if he found it to be too dangerous during the procedure.

For the first time in his life, Ron said, he had the motivation to follow a diet plan. It was either get the surgery, LaVonna said, or not be here anymore.

Ron did lose the 40 pounds and on August 30, 2017, Dr. Callery performed successful Bariatric surgery at Palomar Medical Center Poway. As far as they know, it was the first surgery performed on a patient with Ron’s complications at any hospital, ever.

“He (Dr. Callery) was amazed at how fast I recuperated,” Ron said.

Today Big Ron isn’t so big. He’s lost more than 150 pounds and weighs a still declining 260 pounds.

“My whole lifestyle has changed,” Ron says. “I recently bought a donut and only ate half. I’ve eaten half a dozen donuts but never half of one donut.”

“He’s living again,” LoVanna said.

Ron and LaVanna are now taking walks on the beach. Ron is riding his bike, gardening and cleaning the house. He’s spending quality time with his daughter who recently graduated with an MBA from Pt. Loma Nazarene. He’s preparing for a kidney transplant and even wants to go back to work after 12 years of lying around at an age when most people are thinking of retiring.

“Dr. Callery, he saved me,” Ron says.

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