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Resident Nina shares her weight loss surgery journey – ThedaCare

When Paul Amund’s mother passed away in 2018, he reached a breaking point.

As Paul witnesses his mother’s five-year struggle with dementia, he becomes increasingly depressed. He also had physical health problems, including back pain and morbid obesity. He gained over 100 pounds during his mother’s illness alone.

By the end of 2018, Paul weighed around 380 pounds and was stuck on a treadmill. He was in so much pain, he could hardly work, let alone stay active.

“I underwent treatments and cortisone injections and kept gaining weight,” he said.

Eventually, Paul got down to 410 pounds, and the shots stopped helping his pain. He meets his back surgeon, who tells Paul that he will need to lose 100 pounds before he will have surgery. The surgeon recommended that he consider bariatric surgery.

Paul thought about it for a few weeks and in June 2019 he had his first meeting with ThedaCare Bariatrics. The experience led him to find his design.

“I decided then, ‘I don’t want to live like this,'” he recalls. My back was so bad, I couldn’t work. I couldn’t bend over to brush my teeth or take a shower. Everything hurts, no matter what you do.”

And with that, Paul’s conversion began. His insurance required him to complete six months of meetings with dietitians and counselors before he could have weight-loss surgery. During that time period alone, he lost 100 pounds.

Paul chose to have the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. In this procedure, the surgeon creates a small stomach pouch and attaches it directly to the small intestine. It promotes weight loss by restricting the amount of food a person can eat.

When the day of surgery came in January 2020, Paul, 49, was ready.

“I wasn’t too worried about it,” he said. “I was at the end of the road to either do something about this or die in my late 40s or 50s which way I’m going.”

A new beginning

Reflecting on his journey, Paul says the surgery itself was one of the easiest parts. He had some minor discomforts afterward, but didn’t need any pain medication other than acetaminophen. He also had to go on a liquid diet for a week after the procedure.

The surgery helped resolve many of his other health problems, including hyperlipidemia, type 2 diabetes, acid reflux, and high blood pressure.

When Paul weighed in at 250 pounds five months later, he was ready for his back surgery in May 2020. The good habits he developed after bariatric surgery helped him get through this experience, and he was up and walking the day after the procedure.

After only five weeks, Paul decided to try something new. He raced his first race – the Fox Firecracker 5K in Kaukauna. From there, he participated in several walking events that summer.

By that fall, Paul had started running — and he wouldn’t stop. In November 2020 he ran his first half marathon and has gone on to complete several additional races, including a half marathon in Las Vegas and a 20k race in Madison.

“Running gets your adrenaline pumping, and it’s fun,” he said. “Preparation is hard, and it’s so satisfying when you’re out there running with other people. You can share your story with them.”

Dr. Raymond Jurgen, who co-leads ThedaCare obesity program and performed Paul’s surgery, explained that the healthy habits Paul adopted helped speed up his weight loss.

“Paul has definitely been one of our patients who has embraced what he needs to do and continues to show you how successful you can be,” said Dr. Jurgen.

Stay committed

Weight loss surgery is not an easy solution. In fact, long-term weight maintenance requires a lifelong commitment. Paul has remained faithful to this, even through adversity.

In June of 2022, he had skin removal surgery, which was painful and led to complications. Additionally, unlike most surgeries where getting up and moving around is part of the recovery process, this procedure required Paul to rest for two months afterwards.

He established a routine around eating and exercising, and the relapse proved challenging. When he had to give up the activity, his weight began to rise again.

Several months after his last surgery, Paul has returned to his habits of carefully planning meals and walking three times a day – 30 minutes after each meal. He’s also proud to say he’s back running races at his usual pace of 10 minutes per mile.

Paul, who now weighs approximately 235 pounds, has achieved such success that he has chosen to become a patient champion for ThedaCare Bariatrics. Patient Champions help other patients on their weight loss journey and assist in support groups.

“Taking on the role of a patient champion not only helps others, but it also helps me hold myself accountable,” he said. “I can’t come to meetings and tell them to do these things if I don’t. I need to be a role model first.”

When Paul looks at what inspired him to make a change, he says it started from within. This raises his advice to others.

“Make sure it’s something you want to do,” he said. “Until I’m ready, it’s not going to happen. I set my mind on it and said, ‘Okay, I’m done with this.'” I want to do this.'”

During celebrations and tough times, there is one assurance that keeps Paul going.

He said, “I still think to this day that my mother looks down on me and that she helped me through all this.” “I know she would be proud.” To learn more about ThedaCare Bariatric Program, visit thedacare.org/services/weight-loss-surgery/ or call or call 920-720-7211.

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About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization provides care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs nearly 7,000 healthcare professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in population health, Team Members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also works with local communities to understand needs, find solutions together, and encourage health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, giving professionals the ability to confer with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a Level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, and heart and stroke programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should contact Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or ThedaCare Medical Center-Neenah Switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.