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Weight Loss Surgery Made a Difference for Drummer

For Todd Harman, weight loss surgery at UVA changed how he approaches work and play.

Todd Harman had fun in the snow last winter when he went sledding with his young son, something that would’ve been too hard for him to do just a few years ago.

Todd Harman PolaroidPrior to his bariatric weight-loss surgery in November 2007, Harman avoided such outings and other seemingly simple activities like walking and amusement parks. He weighed as much as 420 pounds and those things were just too hard for him.

“Before the surgery, going sledding with my son would’ve been too hard for me to do. Now, I can grab him and run up the hill and have a great time,” he says.

A Difference at Work and Play

Harman’s weight was affecting other aspects of his life.

He used an asthma inhaler every day and had what he describes as “horrible” sleep apnea; a sleep study found that he stopped breathing over 100 times an hour. Because of this, he would get easily fatigued while working at his job as a pharmacist.

Now, he doesn’t need the inhaler and he’s much more likely to do seemingly simple things like get the door or answer a phone at work because he has so much more energy. “You don’t realize how much of that stuff you’re avoiding,” Harman says.Todd Harman Polaroid after Bariatric Surgery

After work hours, Harman, who is 47 and now weighs 185 pounds, is a drummer in a heavy metal band. Drumming is a physical, high-energy activity – one that Harman has no trouble doing since he’s lost weight.

“Before, we had to be careful of the order of the songs,” he says. “I had to pace myself and take rest periods. Now, I don’t have to hold back. Losing weight has totally changed my ability to play. I tend to go too fast now and have extra energy. I have to remind myself to hold back.”

Making the Decision

Despite all of these positive outcomes, Harman didn’t share his news with others when he first decided to have weight-loss surgery.  “I felt like I was admitting defeat,” he says. Now, after going through the experience and doing research into food addiction, his attitude has changed. “I realize I have nothing to be ashamed of,” he says.

Once Harman made the decision, he had to convince his wife Susan, who was initially opposed to the idea. He told her he was worried about his health. “My father had his first heart attack at 36, his second at 51 and died when he was 63. I saw where I was headed,” he says.

Harman also wanted to be sure he was around for his son. “Having him changed me as a person. I remembered doing sports with my father and I wanted to do that with my son. I wanted to be the best dad I could be,” he says. “My wife saw where I was coming from.”

Harman took his wife to UVA to attend the bariatric program’s introductory class for patients. “She was going to be going through this with me and I wanted her to understand.” They were both impressed with the class and the information UVA’s doctors and nurses provided.

UVA conducts these informational sessions so that patients and their families can weigh the pros and cons of bariatric surgery and decide if they’re ready to make the commitment that’s needed for the surgery to be successful, says surgeon Bruce Schirmer, MD.

Todd Harmon medium

Ground Work

Finding out more about UVA’s staff and reputation with weight loss surgery helped Harman feel more confident about his choice. Harman researched UVA on the internet and talked with former patients and staff, as well as his own primary care physician. All of this helped him feel more comfortable with the process.

“You’ve got to have a positive attitude and take all the information that you get and use it,” he says.

Eating Right

Since his surgery, Harman has made quite a number of changes to his diet. He watches his carbohydrate intake and eats only very small portions of food. He also weighs himself every day to make sure he’s on track and isn’t gaining weight.

“I know how easy it is to put 10 pounds back on,” he says. “I promised myself I would not become one of those people [who put the weight back on]. I think I owe it to myself after going through that surgery. It worked for me, but it does take restraint and dedication.”