M.T.V. Changed My Life, by Jacob Brown

Inspiration can come from the oddest places. On one seemingly average day in the spring of 2002, the course of my life was altered forever. 

At 19 years of age, I was a behemoth of a man, tipping the scales at a staggering 500 pounds. The buttons on all my pants would hang on for dear life every time I wore them because of my ever-expanding waistline. When I did laundry, my shirts resembled flags more than clothing. When I left the house it was usually to go out to eat at which time a simple restaurant booth became my arch-nemesis.

 It was a picture perfect day, and I was spending my time indoors as I did every other day.  Regardless of what the weather was like I never felt the need to be outside. I avoided physical activity like the plague, so following my normal schedule I plopped myself on the couch.  Not knowing that the next hour would be unlike every hour before it I unassumingly turned on MTV. There was a reality show airing called “True Life.” This particular episode was about real people getting plastic surgery. I had always thought that surgery was interesting, so I decided to watch. Over the course of the program I was introduced to three people: a man who wanted calf implants, a woman who wanted breast implants, and a woman who wanted something called a gastric bypass.

The woman who wanted gastric bypass surgery was in her late 20’s and weighed 360 pounds. She ended up getting the surgery and a few months later she had lost a substantial amount of weight. I was 19 and weighed 500 pounds and all of the sudden a light bulb went on in my head, and I said to myself, “What the hell, I’m bigger than she is!”

When the show was over I decided to do some research on gastric bypass surgery.

As it turns out, in gastric bypass surgery a surgeon removes 90% of your stomach and then reattaches your small intestine to the remaining 10% of your stomach. It is the last resort of doctors trying to save people who are morbidly obese and at risk of various medical maladies such as heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. It is also an incredibly dangerous surgery: one out of every 200 people die on the operating table or from a post operative infection.

Despite knowing how dangerous the surgery was, I decided to pursue it. At the time I was covered by my dad’s insurance, so I called the insurance company to find out how to get the process started. I felt that it was worth the risk of dying to make my life better.  It was either that or wait until my heart exploded. 

After I’d seen all kinds of doctors from gastroenterologists to psychologists, it was agreed

that I was a good candidate for the surgery. The insurance company spent months trying to block it because it was very expensive–about 75,000 dollars. I talked to customer service reps, and they would try to send me to another doctor or tell me that my paperwork got lost and it would have to be faxed again by my doctor.

”This is bullshit! My son needs this surgery and he’s gonna get it!” my father told his union leader after I had been given the runaround for months. Two days later I received a phone call telling me that I was approved for surgery.  I knew that I had no one to blame but myself for my size.                                                                 

After years of being unhappy from being so massive I expected that my premature death was a foregone conclusion. I would think about what would be said at my funeral. My eulogy consisting of someone saying, “Here lies Jake Brown. Fat and plump he lived like a chump until his fat heart couldn’t pump.” But after watching that show on M.T.V., I decided that I still had a chance.

I wanted to live!    

December 11th, surgery day had come! I woke up extremely nervous because the enormity of what was about to happen hit me. That morning my mom would be accompanying me and during the 25 minute car ride to the hospital I was a wreck. I finally realized that this could be my last day. There was so much I hadn’t done, and so much I still wanted to do. To try to calm my nerves I played some music. The song was “Like A Rock” by Bob Seger. Time after time I replayed the song as music boomed out of the silver Dodge Caravan. It helped a little, but I still couldn’t shake my nervousness.

My grandma also came to show her support and shortly after we arrived at West Allis Memorial, I was prepped and all ready for surgery. As I was being wheeled away to surgery my mom said, “I love you” and I blurted out, “shut up.” I wasn’t trying to be mean but when she said that I immediately thought that those words could be the last words she ever said to me, and it made me even more nervous.

When the surgery was over I woke up in excruciating pain but happy to be alive. I spent the next 5 days in the intensive care unit recovering before I was allowed to go home.     For a month after the surgery, the only time I left my house was to go see my surgeon for post op care. As time passed, the incision healed and my life started to get back to something resembling a normal life. The more time that passed the more weight I lost and the happier I became.

It’s been about 7 years since the surgery now, and it’s still not easy. I am still down more than 100 pounds, but, like many people’s, my weight goes up and down but I am still much smaller than I was. My happiness and how much I appreciate just being alive is something that doesn’t fluctuate.  When you have a moment when you realize that life isn’t guaranteed, it changes your whole perspective. I now take pleasure in the simple things that many people take for granted—things like spending time with my family or enjoying a beautiful day.

Thank you, M.T.V., for changing my life!

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