Bariatric surgery experiences unite couple
Even before they tied the gastric knot, they had seen the best and worst of one another. In one photo, there was Dwayne Linger – all 387 pounds of him. In another, there he was at 180.
Likewise, Allenna Mullins had posted her photos to the same social media page. In one photo, she weighed 298. In another, there she was, also at 180. As Dwayne Linger tells it, “She looked hot!”
The two patients of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center bariatric surgeon Jonathan Ray, MD, became one last Halloween. They said their vows in a courthouse ceremony followed by a reception at their Strawberry Plains home with the bride dressed as a “beautiful witch” and the bridegroom as the character Michael Myers from the Halloween movie series.
They honeymooned in Chattanooga, visiting Rock City and slipping easily between the two gigantic boulders known as “Fat Man Squeeze.” “Before the surgery, there was no way we could squeeze through some of those areas at Rock City because they are so tight,” said Allenna.
“Before the surgery” is a phrase heard often among bariatric patients like the Lingers. For most, bariatric surgeries such as the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve mark a rebirth of sorts.
“I just have to thank God because it totally changed me,” Dwayne said of the Roux-en-Y bypass he had in June 2018. “Totally changed me from the inside out.”
No exaggeration there.
Inside, his stomach’s capacity has shrunk from the size of about three gallon milk jugs to about the size of a baseball. Outside, the 57-year-old former restauranteur who once was tethered to an oxygen tank and unable to do much of anything is teeming with energy and has gone from wearing size 58 pants to 28- to 32-inch pants.
“I couldn’t get around, I was always tired and wore out, couldn’t go outside or go more than 20 feet without having to sit down,” said Dwayne. “Now, I can do anything!”
Allenna initially lost 50 pounds through gastric sleeve surgery in 2016. But after experiencing severe acid reflux, she turned to Dr. Ray for a gastric bypass two years later and lost another 68 pounds. She went from a size 4X to fitting into a size 2, and now enjoys mowing the lawn and playing outside with her 5-year-old son.
Today the couple enjoys zip-lining, hiking and riding roller coasters they were once too big to ride. Dwayne is also making plans to go hang gliding and maybe even skydiving.
“Any time people lose a significant amount of weight they have a more enjoyable life that’s more complete,” said Dr. Ray. “The majority of people, even after the first week, get a lot more energy … they’re out exercising and doing things they used to do or always wanted to do.”
To reach that point, however, requires lots of support – like the kind offered by groups at Fort Sanders Regional where Dwayne and Allenna first met.
“If you are in a group where other patients have been through this, those who have just gone through the process can ‘catch success,’” said Dr. Ray. “You’re going to groups where people have refined their ability to lose weight and are excited to maintain that way of life. You can hear their stories, and you can say, ‘I’m going to try that.’ Or, ‘That didn’t work. Let me try this.’ You can find ways of adjusting your life that speak to you as an individual. You don’t have to re-invent success.”