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From Sitting on the Sidelines to Living and Enjoying Life

May 23, 2022, 13:51 PM by Ed Baum
Tony Branquinho Dropped 190 Pounds through Bariatric Surgery.

Tony branquinho’s family has been involved with farming and ranching for six generations, with a lifestyle based around agriculture. The family is also active and well-known in the California rodeo community. The 46-year-old Buellton resident has been a big and tall person throughout his life. But recently he realized being overweight was constraining his lifestyle and spawning uncertainties about his future.

“I was still riding horses, but it wasn’t enjoyable,” Tony explains. “I only rode my own horse because it was accustomed to my weight of four hundred pounds. At an annual physical in 2019 I was diagnosed as morbidly obese and prediabetic, and I needed a higher dose of blood pressure medicine. After that diagnosis I wondered, will I be able to walk my daughters down the aisle when they are ready to get married? Will I be able to play with my future grandkids? What will my life be like when I’m sixty? I knew it was time to take the necessary steps to ensure I’ll be around as long as I can be for my family.”

before and after bariatric surgery pictures

Mr. Branquinho tried informal weight loss strategies in the past, but successes were short-lived. “In my mid-twenties I was exercising four hours a day and trying to eat less. But I didn’t have any guidance about nutrition, and it was difficult to maintain the almost full-time workout routine,” he says. He temporarily lost some weight. But bad habits soon crept in. “When stress hits, some people drink, some people smoke, some chew tobacco,” he continues. “My go-to was food. If I had a stressful day, I would stop and have fast food on the way home from work. And then I would go home and eat dinner. It became a bad cycle. The next thing I knew, I was obese again.”

In 2012, Tony’s physician recommended bariatric surgery. He was two weeks away from the procedure, but he backed out. “I wasn’t mentally prepared,” he says. “But after my 2019 physical, I realized it was time.” He began consultations with Dr. Marc Zerey, a board-certified physician at Sansum Clinic who specializes in bariatric surgery and advanced laparoscopic techniques. “Dr. Zerey was very knowledgeable and easy to talk to,” Branquinho says. “He presented information in layman’s terms that were easy to understand.”

The two common surgical procedures for weight loss are the sleeve gastrectomy and the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Both are performed laparoscopically with small incisions to promote quicker recovery than a traditional open approach. Mr. Branquinho underwent sleeve gastrectomy. “I told Dr. Zerey I preferred the sleeve gastrectomy, because I had learned that it is less invasive than the gastric bypass,” Tony recalls. “He was very supportive and said it was a great fit for my age, lifestyle and activity level.”

“The sleeve gastrectomy is the more frequently performed of the two types of bariatric surgery,” Dr. Zerey explains. “It involves removing approximately seventy-five percent of the stomach using a stapling device, giving it a banana shape. This restricts how much food a person can eat and also has been shown to decrease appetite, reduce medical problems caused by obesity and increase overall metabolism. For the majority of patients, this is usually the best option given the relative simplicity of the operation and safety profile. Patients typically lose approximately thirty percent of their weight.”

Sansum Clinic’s Bariatric Surgery Center integrates surgical technology, dietary and nutritional counseling, emotional support and long-term follow-up care. As part of the orientation process led by Dr. Zerey, Tony also met with Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Christina Archer, MS, RDN, IFNCP. She leads Sansum Clinic’s support group for bariatric surgery. “The more information patients have before surgery, the more successful they will be afterwards,” Archer says. “They know what to expect and they are able to plan accordingly.”

Bariatric Coordinator Jessica Orozco also played a role in Mr. Branquinho’s success. As coordinator she helps bariatric patients with continuity of care, including keeping them informed about appointments and support group meetings. “The support system through Sansum Clinic is fantastic,” Branquinho says. “Everyone is very professional and knowledgeable. That helps patients like me navigate the process before and after surgery.”

Tony’s wife dropped him off at Cottage Hospital on a bright September morning in 2020. “Covid protocols were in place,” Branquinho recalls. “So my wife could not come in to the hospital. She drove away and there was no backing out for me this time. I was nervous about the surgery. But Dr. Zerey, the nurses and everyone on staff was so caring and supportive. They helped me feel at ease. The anesthesiologist was outstanding. I’d never been put under anesthesia before. He told me: When you’re on that table, I’ve got you. He asked me to close my eyes and count down from one hundred. I think I got to ninety-nine. When I opened my eyes the surgery was finished—a complete success. It took about ninety minutes.”

Mr. Branquinho recovered very quickly, thanks to the minimally invasive nature of laparoscopic surgery. He was walking within fifteen minutes of the procedure. “I was doing laps around the hospital halls every hour and a half,” Tony says. “I went in for the surgery on Monday morning. By Tuesday evening I was back home on my couch and feeling good.”

Within weeks, he noticed his weight steadily dropping. “My size 40 jeans were loose for the first time in a long time,” he shares. “It was a natural progression. As I resumed working out and taking walks, the weight starting coming off even faster. I have lost over 190 pounds and I’ve been able to keep it off. I no longer worry about things like getting on an airplane and needing a seatbelt extension, or wondering how my size will affect the person seated next to me. I’m back to living and enjoying life, not sitting on the sidelines watching it go by.”

Tony is launching a podcast called The 180 Project with a couple of friends to share his experience about how bariatric surgery turned his life around 180 degrees. “I want to motivate people and let them know that no matter where you are in life, you can make changes to turn your life around and improve it,” he says. “This was a life-saving and life-changing event for me. I’m glad I can share my story and hopefully help people take a similar step to change their lives.”

To schedule an appointment with Sansum Clinic’s Bariatric Surgery Center or to sign up for an upcoming weight loss surgery seminar, please call (805) 898-3472.

Photo caption: Tony Branquinho before (left) and after (right) photos