Paul Waters before going through the Bariatrics program at AMH.Paul Waters now, after completing the surgery with AMH.

ALTON – Paul Waters likes to go to auctions and thrift stores, anything to get a good deal. Finding the right item at a reduced price feels almost as good how he now feels at a reduced weight.

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Waters, 70, of Bunker Hill, Ill., was the first patient to have surgery as part of Alton Memorial Hospital’s Bariatric Weight Loss program in the fall of 2020. From his high weight of 304, Waters was down to 245 by the spring of 2021 and feeling like a new man.

“I just didn’t have the energy anymore,” Waters said. “I debated doing something like this for a long time, but some of the other things I considered seemed a lot more drastic. But this program was a nice combination of things.”

The Bariatrics program involves not only the gastric sleeve surgery performed by general surgeon Matthew Musielak, MD, but also nutritional and behavioral support.

Paul Waters with Dr. Matthew Musielak, the surgeon at Alton Memorial Hospital who leads the Bariatrics program.

“The surgery by Dr. Musielak was fine,” Waters said. “I’ve had a lot of surgeries in my life that were harder than this. It was only a few cuts on my chest and most of my stomach was removed.”

The gastric sleeve transforms a normal stomach – a football-sized muscular sac – into a narrow tube the size and shape of a large banana.

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“This results in the ability to consume much smaller meals and, more importantly, resets the fat storage set point at a much lower level,” Dr. Musielak said.

“The surgery changed a lot of things,” Waters said. “For example, I have no desire for soda anymore. I really like the carbonated water a lot, although Naomi (Ward, dietitian at AMH) is working with me about that, too.

“It’s changed my taste buds, too. I’m still not supposed to have very many carbs. I eat burgers without the bread now, and I don’t even remember the last time I had a piece of bread. If I ever have fried chicken it’s just one leg, and we hardly go out to a restaurant anymore.”

Waters also met with a mental health professional as part of the program, since a significant weight loss journey can be an emotional one.

“I would definitely recommend the program at Alton Memorial for anyone who is looking for a way to lose weight,” Waters said. “It’s like a 60-pound weight off your back, and I had to throw away all my old clothes.

“It definitely has given me more energy to go to auctions and the thrift stores. I don’t have to park as close now when I go.”

For more information about the Bariatrics program at Alton Memorial, call Alton Surgery at 618-479-1617 or visit www.altonmemorialhospital.org/weightloss. The program does include a phone consultation and several other steps before the surgery, then a strict diet for eight weeks following the surgery, plus continued support with Dr. Musielak and a dietitian.

“I feel great,” Waters said. “I’m to the point where I can even skip the sweets about 90 percent of the time.”

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