By Adam Navarro
Just over a year ago, English teacher Andrew Richardson was at Community North Hospital in Indianapolis with his wife. He was there because his wife was signing up to have gastric bypass surgery. He was just along for the ride, or so he thought.
“My wife wanted to get it done. I went to the organizational meeting just to sit with her and keep her company while she went and did it, because her co-worker did it, and I’m sitting there and I’m listening to the sales pitch. They’re just telling you what’s going to happen, and they talked about how there’s an 80 percent possibility it would cure diabetes, 75 percent possibility it would cure heart disease, and I’m sitting here listening to this stuff, and I’m like, ‘Well I got all that stuff’,” Richardson said.
After listening to the surgery briefing, Richardson sat in the waiting room while his wife signed up for the surgery. That’s when he made the decision.
“She went and signed up, she walked up to the front to do the sign up, and I sat there for about 15 minutes and I’m like ‘screw it’ and I went and signed up myself,” Richardson said.
Richardson signed up for gastric bypass surgery. While optimistic, he did have his concerns regarding the surgery.
“Initially, the reason why I was hesitant to do it was that I had always kind of heard that it was dangerous, and that things can go wrong and whatever, and when I went to this meeting the doctors were so reassuring,” he said. “It’s a surgery, there’s always a possibility for something bad to happen, (but) for me especially, the health benefits were just too much to pass on. At the time, I had diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and it [the surgery] cured all of that.”
Richardson had the surgery done during the school year, but he said he did everything possible to prepare ahead of time.
“Obviously it’s never really a good time,” he said. So to help him miss as little time as possible, he built the surgery into Fall Break. He also put an emphasis on making sure his students stayed informed on his situation.
“At the time, I planned for it. I knew it was coming because I had like a year to plan for it, so I built some lessons around that idea, I had it all set up. The kids were all well aware. I said to the kids a million times, ‘This is what’s going to happen. This is what we’re going to do. This is how we’re going to handle it.’ So, everybody was as prepared as can be,” Richardson said.
Finally, the day of the surgery came. Richardson had the operation performed at Community North in Indianapolis by Dr. John Ditslear.
“The only other thing I would say is, going to Community North in Indianapolis, and I have no idea what the situation would have been like if I’d gone to Ball Hospital, but Community North was an awesome hospital,” Richardson said. “I learned that it’s worth it to shop around a little bit for something like this, rather than just go to your local place. You may find a great person locally, but to find an incredible person, you may need to go outside of your community.”
Richardson’s lifestyle pre-surgery and post-surgery are night and day. Before the surgery, Richardson weighed 268 pounds. After the surgery, he now weighs 172 pounds. He said that he’d like to get down to 168 so “I can say I lost 100 pounds.”
His weight wasn’t the only thing that changed for Richardson after he got the surgery. His life now includes no caffeine.
“I went from six to eight sodas a day to zero. I’m not really supposed to drink anything carbonated or any alcohol. I haven’t had a sip of soda since my surgery. Obviously, my calorie intake is a lot lower. Some people have a lot of issues with specific foods that they can’t eat anymore,” Richardson said. “They told me ‘You’re not going to be able to eat sugar ever again’ and I haven’t found that to be a problem. I can basically eat whatever I want, but I don’t eat very much of it, just very small quantities. I have to walk. You’ll see me at lunch time and I’ll be walking around the school, because after I eat, I have to walk, or else my stomach gets really upset.”
For those around Mr. Richardson, specifically his family, the struggles he endured were tough on them too.
“It was hard to have to watch him go through that and not be able to help him,” said Katie Richardson, Mr. Richardson’s daughter. She believed that her dad would eventually get the surgery, and “would do anything to make him happy.”
Richardson also encountered a complication post-surgery known as a stricture, which affects about one out of every 10 gastric bypass surgeries.
“When they reattached the tube that goes out of my stomach, because they cut out that part of my stomach, it’s just gone. The hole, which is supposed to be the size of a pencil, mine got some scar tissue and it just closed up, so food can’t go through there. I couldn’t even keep water down, I would just throw it up, so I went for a week where I consumed zero calories. You’re on a liquid diet anyway, but you have protein shakes so you’re not consuming zero calories. You’re on a pure liquid diet for about a month, and then they move you up to things like Jell-O, pudding and things like that for a little while.”
Even through the adversity, Richardson said he wouldn’t change anything about the process that he’s been through.
“There’s nothing I would change about it, even the stricture part ended up very good, because if that never happened, I would’ve taken it for granted, because this has been so easy for me. Other people don’t have the kind of success I had,” Richardson said. “You kind of want to suffer a little because then you won’t want to wreck it.”
Richardson’s decision to have gastric bypass surgery was a life-changing decision, and yet he said that the most impactful thing about the process came after the surgery, in the form of a dream.
“I dreamed about the day I died, and I was like 90. I never intended to live that long. I just figured I would die at 55, overweight, have a heart attack and die. I don’t believe in prophecies or visions, but I saw the day that I’m going to die.”