Ray and Margie McCrorey, Weight Loss Surgery

There was a time not too long ago when Ray and Margie McCrorey would come home from work exhausted, the rest of the day devoted to dinner and rest.

Ray, a former football player and Scout leader, had no energy what-so-ever and, despite six surgeries over the years, suffered agonizing pain in his right knee as the result of a motorcycle accident in 1981.

The McCroreys readily admit that a big part of their low energy was a direct result of excessive weight.

"At my heaviest I weighed 325 pounds," said Margie, a 50-year-old environmental services manager.

Ray, 53, a CT technologist, weighed as much as 345 pounds and was on five medications to control his blood pressure.

Today both are far more active, bicycling the neighborhood and making plans to bike the 34-mile Kal-Haven Trail to South Haven.

The difference?

It was highly successful weight loss surgery by Dr. Stuart Verseman of General and Bariatric Surgery, a division of HealthCare Midwest.

"We tried all kinds of diets," Ray said. "Every time I would lose 10 pounds and then gain 20 pounds back. It was typical yo-yo dieting. I started putting on the weight after the accident in 1981 when I couldn't move for some time. Over time I went from 175 pounds to 345 pounds."

Margie had the same response to diets, losing but gaining in an up and down pattern.

Both considered weight loss surgery but hoped that they would finally discover the diet that worked and the weight would stay off.

Both, however, began hearing about people who had the surgery and had great success losing and keeping weight off.

"About three years ago we started researching weight loss surgery," Margie said, although they initially backed off. But in January 2008 they set up an appointment with Dr. Verseman and began the long process of deliberating weight loss surgery options and learning about food choices, eating habits, exercise and other factors that are part of the process.

"I kind of pushed for the surgery," Ray said. "I was at the point where I couldn't do anything. My life was not going anywhere. My blood pressure was out of control and had the problem with my knee. I needed more knee surgery but they said I was too heavy.

"I decided I couldn't live with this weight."

On Sept. 9, 2008, Margie underwent a complicated procedure where Dr. Verseman created a small pouch from her stomach and connected it directly to her small intestine. She remained in Borgess for three days.

Two weeks later Ray underwent a gastric banding procedure at Borgess where a band was tied around the upper part of his stomach. He was home in less than 24 hours.

Both had heard that some people who have weight loss surgery have a difficult time with the new way to eat and the small portions.

"Everybody said that eating was the most difficult part," Margie said. "For me that was the easiest part. With the smaller stomach size, I just didn't want the amount of food that I had wanted before.

"I'm never going back there again. I simply don't want what I wanted before."

Ray, too, had little difficulty adjusting to smaller portions and prohibition on liquids around mealtime. (Liquids wash the food more quickly through the digestive system, increasing caloric absorption).

"My sense of taste has changed," Margie said. "I don't like fried food anymore. They taste nasty."

Ray said that on one recent bike ride they passed a restaurant and they both commented on the fact that they could "smell the grease."

"I eat anything I want that tastes good and I don't feel restricted at all," Margie said.

Ray, who used to race through meals, said he has slowed down his eating habits. "I enjoy my food more," he said.

At the 2008 Christmas party Ray won a $100 gift card for a major restaurant chain and was told the $100 would be gone in one stop.

"We've been there three times and we still have money left," he said.

"We eat out all the time," Margie said. "We usually order a dinner salad each and share an entree, part of which we take home. One dinner provides us with four meals."

Both note that weight loss surgery is not a diet. It's a lifestyle change.

"Nobody can stick to a diet forever," Margie said. "I love chocolate and since the surgery I allow myself one small chocolate a week. When I dieted I couldn't have any chocolate and I wouldn't stick to that."

A big part of their success, they said, was the fact that they both had the surgery about the same time and both supported each other during the lifestyle changes.

"We are our own support group," Ray said. "We have always had a great relationship but it's even better now. She's my soul mate."

About the same time as the surgeries, the McCrorey's two children became adults and moved out. That meant, among other changes, that the two could purchase just the food they needed under the new regimen and not have to worry about food for the kids as well.

"We can focus just on us," Margie said. "It was perfect timing."

Ray now takes fewer blood pressure medications and Margie no longer needs the pain pills for her arthritis. Ray had knee implant surgery in January 2009 and has far less discomfort.

"I've gone from a XX shirt size to a large and from 48 pants to 38," Ray said. "I've lost 95 pounds and my goal now is to weigh 210. My long-term goal is to weight 180, my weight when I was playing football."

Margie weighs 194, having trimmed 126 pounds since the surgery.

"It was never about being skinny," she said. "It was about being able to come home from work and not be exhausted. It was about being active and enjoying life. My family has a history of people who have lived long and active lives and I thought that without the weight loss I might not survive that long.

"I feel very good," Margie said. "For both of us this has been 100% positive. It has drawn us even closer together."
Ray, too, is very pleased with the results.

"I feel like a young kid," he said. "I always acted like one but now I feel like one."