Bariatrics patient with kidney disease loses 200 pounds in one year

By: Shelby Olive
| Published 05/23/2016

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THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Standing over six feet, J.T. Alford had always considered himself to be a big guy, but the 200-pound weight loss over the course of a year doesn’t even begin to cover his journey.

Four years ago, unmanageable high blood pressure led Alford to a cardiologist. He took three different medications simultaneously for blood pressure alone but took several others, totaling to 10 prescriptions, for other health issues. The cardiologist ordered a CT-Scan and discovered that the source of his high blood pressure was not from his heart, but from his kidneys. He was then diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that causes multiple cysts to grow in the kidneys.

“The polycystic kidney disease is going to wreak havoc on your blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol big time,” Alford said.

Alford’s kidney function was declining, and he was in need of a transplant. At a weight of 420 pounds, he wouldn’t get on the list anytime soon. His nephrologist, Dr. Adam Frome with CHI St. Luke’s Health - The Woodlands Hospital, told him that he needed to figure out a way to lose 200 pounds and referred him to Dr. Jason Balette, the Metabolic and Bariatric director at the bariatrics center.

“I’ve been through two kidney doctors. I tried the Kingwood and Houston areas, and the guys there just didn’t impress me very much, so I just decided to do this on my own and ended up in Dr. Frome’s office,” Alford said. “I couldn’t say anything negative about him whatsoever, and he’s been awesome for me and my family. Dr. Balette is the same way. He’s been a great guy and very helpful. Anytime I’ve called, his staff, office and everybody who has anything to do with that program have been good to me.”

CHI St. Luke’s achieved accreditation as a comprehensive center through the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program last June. As the nationwide accreditation and quality improvement program for metabolic and bariatric surgery, it provides an objective and measurable means in which a facility can demonstrate its high-quality care in a multidisciplinary format. Maintaining this status requires consistent attention to program details with a periodic review of outcomes, pathways and protocols to ensure that the center provides safe and competent care. It also guarantees the facilities’ continual commitment to quality of care and serves as a reflective and introspective exercise of its own processes and protocols.

Janice Penn, Bariatrics and Wellness Coordinator at CHI St. Luke’s, said a list of qualifications must be met before entering the bariatrics program. In addition to Alford’s BMI the resulting health issues he had, entry into the program required him to see a psychologist/psychiatrist and a nutritionist.

“The reason candidates need to have a psychological evaluation is to rule out psychoses,” Penn said. “Patients need to be able to follow the program guidelines, and we need to validate that they can do that. The diet immediately after the surgery is rigorous, until you gradually resume a normal, healthy diet.”

Alford watched his own father go through two transplants and dialysis due to polycystic kidney disease, and he knew he didn’t want to go down that same path.

The 33-year-old’s wife and two small children were all the motivation he needed to go through the surgery.

“I’ve already made a commitment. I’m married and we decided to have kids,” Alford said. “I need to be there as long as I can. That’s my commitment. I need to do everything I can to be there for a long time.”

Leading up to his surgery, Alford lost between 20 and 30 pounds on his own. His rigorous diet began once the gastric sleeve was complete. For the first couple of weeks, Alford had a strict liquid diet where he drank out of a medicine cup every 15 minutes. He slowly began adding protein and worked his way up to solid food. In addition to diet and exercise, Alford had to work to monitor his other health issues.

“At the three month check up, I think I lost 130 pounds,” Alford said. “Ever since then, I haven’t really had a slow down of losing weight. They were in bigger chunks at first, but as far as going a solid week without losing any weight, I haven’t done it yet.”

Weighing around 220 pounds a year after surgery, Alford has a new lease on life and no longer is in immediate need of a new kidney. His joints were better, and he no longer struggled with gout and sciatic pain.

“Now, my wife is much happier with everything, and there’s hope that I can get off all the blood pressure medicines 100 percent at some point in time,” Alford said. “It’s just been a positive, positive thing, period.”

Though pleased with his success, Alford knows that the surgery was a tool to assist him with weight loss and help him get back on a healthier track of eating the right types and proportions of foods and exercising. Penn said aesthetics are not the reason to do surgery.

“If their life or health history has not been negatively impacted by their weight, the motivation to lose the weight is not enough to drive them to have surgery,” Penn said. “The decision to have surgery has to come from the heart. You have to really want to do this.”

Alford said the support from his family and the staff at CHI St. Luke’s has made all the difference in his weight loss journey. His success has afforded him the opportunity to share his story and inspire others to take control of their health.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Alford said. “Knowing the pain that I went through those first few days, I would do it again.”

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