As the numbers on the scale inched closer to 500 pounds, Montrose musician Donny Morales knew he needed to make a serious change in his life. His health was spiraling out of control due to his obesity. Morales was dealing with high blood pressure, was taking pills for his thyroid, giving himself injections for pre-diabetes, and was on supplemental oxygen.

“I’m a musician and that’s what I love to do and I’ve been doing it for so long. I always had to play music sitting down. I had to, I just couldn’t stand,” explains Donny Morales, St. Mary’s bariatric patient and musician.

Over the course of the last two decades Morales had lost thousands of pounds. He tried numerous diets and exercise programs but nothing worked.

“Every failure was just taking me deeper and deeper into depression.  Most people who are not obese just don’t understand. The biggest part is the emotional struggle. It’s the way people look at you and the way you look at the world,” Morales adds.

In 2018 Morales met with the St. Mary’s Bariatric Program for the first time, but at that time he was too nervous to proceed. Then the COVID pandemic hit and he couldn’t perform his music, he couldn’t go out, and he found himself taking more comfort in food.

“When I saw the numbers on the scale hit 494, that was my tipping point. I wasn’t done living and I knew I needed to do something. That’s when I got back in touch with St. Mary’s,” explains Morales.

Morales made the commitment to have bariatric surgery and started the 6-month preparation process. He met with bariatric surgeon Leonard K. Welsh, MD, went to nutrition classes, had numerous visits with a psychologist, and learned what to expect and how to nourish his body post surgery.

“We decided that a loop duodenal switch, which is a very aggressive operation, would be best for him because of his very high weight and his comorbidities of high blood pressure and pre-diabetes,” Welsh explains.

The loop duodenal switch combines two bariatric surgeries. First, a sleeve gastrectomy is performed, which reduces the size of the stomach to a thin strip and then the duodenal switch procedure, which reroutes food so that it bypasses a significant portion of the small bowel, preventing the body from absorbing as much fat and calories.

“Everybody was fantastic at St. Mary’s, working in tandem with my physician in Montrose. It was bam, bam, bam, a well-oiled team. They truly are as good as anything on the planet,” explains Morales.

Morales spent two days in the hospital following surgery and noticed results almost immediately.

“It seems like somebody waved a magic wand and all the baggage I’ve been carrying emotionally and physically is starting to go away. I don’t need injections anymore and by next month my doctor says I can throw away my high blood pressure medicines as well,” Morales says with a huge smile.

And according to Dr. Welsh that’s exactly why they do bariatric surgery. “While weight loss is important, the real reason we do this surgery is to improve one’s health. It’s to get off of chronic medications; it’s to improve comorbidities and diseases that people have.”

Six months post surgery, Morales has lost 144 pounds and is journey is far from over.

“My first goal was 350 pounds and I’m there. Now, my last goal weight, just to get there is 299. I haven’t been under 300 pounds since I was in my 20’s,” Morales sighs.

But for Morales, the benefits of bariatric surgery far surpass the numbers on the scale.

“People ask me about the surgery and say has it really change your life? No, it hasn’t changed my life at all. It gave me my life back. That’s the magic of this weight loss surgery.”

To learn more about Donny’s journey and the options for Bariatric Surgery, visit  scl.health\weightloss.