“I have a lot to live for”
Overcoming adversity has been a constant in Robert Gross’ young life. Now 23, he watched his mom struggle with cancer from the time he was born. She passed away in 2015.
Robert’s parents divorced when he was 5 years old. His older sister has cerebral palsy and has had multiple surgeries over the years.
Robert has Asperger’s syndrome and turned to food during his childhood as a way of seeking comfort and enjoyment. With constant snacking and poor eating habits, he grew to weigh 403 lbs. by his high school graduation.
He managed to lose about 80 lbs. when his mom’s condition began to deteriorate. During the stressful last months of his mother’s life, he had to make the decision to remove her from life support. When she died, it set off a cycle of binge eating that caused his weight to jump to 400 lbs. again.
The extra weight took its toll: “I had issues with my knees and back,” he says. “After going up a flight of stairs, I was always out of breath. And I got picked on a lot because of my weight.”
Time for a Change
Robert was ready for a healthier lifestyle. “I wanted to eat healthier. I knew I wanted weight-loss surgery the minute I heard about it,” he says.
It took some time to work through insurance issues, but in May 2017, Robert had a sleeve gastrectomy procedure with St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center. The procedure reduced the size of his stomach by 90 percent — to about the size of a banana.
The surgeon and his weight management team worked with Robert for three months before his surgery and supported him throughout his recovery process.
“It was a good experience,” Robert says. “The nurses at the hospital were as nice as could be and made sure I was comfortable.” He also appreciated months of guidance and coaching from an advanced practice nurse, a dietitian and psychologist at the Weight Management Center.
A New Start
Robert went into his surgery at 321 lbs. In just a year’s time, he lost more than 100 lbs. He now weighs 210 lbs. and carries it well on his 6-foot frame.
“My life has really turned for the better,” Robert says. “Obesity can cause a lot of illnesses, and I’m proud that I’m not obese anymore.”
He’d like to go to college, but right now he’s enjoying construction and landscaping work. He smiles, “It gives me pride, happiness and joy to do the physical work I never thought I’d be able to do.”
In his leisure time, Robert is enjoying riding roller coasters at Kings Island amusement park, has tried rock climbing and would like to go Bungee jumping. “I live by my mom’s example: Never give up,” he says.
“This surgery pretty much saved my life. I have a lot to live for.”