Couple commits to better health with gastric bypass

[4 min read]

In this article:

  • After years of yo-yo dieting, husband and wife Jeff and Teri Lemke each committed to improving their health and well-being with bariatric surgery.

  • Teri’s gastric sleeve surgery in 2021 went smoothly. However, Jeff’s Roux-en-Y gastric bypass a year later had complications, which he overcame with the help of the bariatric and metabolic surgery program at Swedish First Hill campus.

  • The Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure is recommended for people with severe obesity, and it can have a positive impact on many health issues, including acid reflux, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes.

Couple commits to better health with gastric bypass

As a machinist, Jeff Lemke spent every day of his career on his feet. It was strenuous work, and by his late 60s he faced several serious health conditions. One of the most pressing issues was his weight, which had reached almost 400 pounds and significantly impacted other aspects of his health and well-being.

“As I got to be heavier and heavier, my knees got really bad, my blood pressure was high, my cholesterol was high,” says Jeff. “Everything seemed bad.”

Jeff and his wife, Teri, had tried non-surgical weight loss programs in the past, each with varying levels of success. Jeff always ended up regaining the pounds he lost. Eventually, Teri decided to undergo a gastric sleeve procedure in 2021. Her surgery was a success and allowed her to lose more than 100 pounds.

Motivated by Teri’s results, Jeff decided to pursue the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass for himself. He found his way to the Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery program at Swedish First Hill campus — but his journey to better health would take a different path than his wife’s. That’s because, due to his multiple comorbidities, Jeff’s surgery was much higher risk than others. Jeff knew that, but the specialized teams at Swedish First Hill have the capabilities to work with patients who have been told they’re too high risk by other providers, and access to lifesaving therapeutics and tools to manage care when complications arise.

Roux-en-Y is a safe surgical weight loss option

The term Roux-en-Y refers to the Y shape the procedure creates in the digestive system by dividing the stomach and small intestine. During the procedure, the functional section of the stomach is reduced to the size of a small pouch, and surgeons use staples to separate it from the rest of the stomach. This new pouch is then connected to the lower segment of the small intestine so that when food goes through the digestive system, it bypasses most of the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. 

Like the gastric sleeve surgery that Teri chose, a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass reduces the size of the stomach, which helps people eat less because they feel fuller, faster. However, with Roux-en-Y, surgeons also remove part of the small intestine, which causes the digestive system to absorb fewer calories.

This surgery is offered to help people with clinically severe obesity achieve effective weight loss.

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is recommended for people with severe obesity. It can improve many health issues related to obesity, including acid reflux, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes.

Complications can occur with any surgery, but they are rare. While gastric bypass is generally safe, it’s a major surgery that permanently alters the digestive system. Even after recovery, gastric bypass patients need to take special care of their digestive health for life.

A long-awaited surgery takes an unexpected turn

In November 2022, Jeff got the go ahead for surgery from the bariatric surgery team at Swedish First Hill campus. It would be a turning point in his life.

“The surgery went great,” says Jeff. “I spent the night in the hospital and went home the next day.”

But after his first night at home, he woke to find one of his incisions bleeding. 

“I went to the emergency room at my local hospital, and they put on a pressure bandage. It seemed like everything was OK,” he says. “But the next morning it was the same thing — I was bleeding again.”

Jeff returned to the hospital. His wound was cauterized, and he received a blood transfusion.

Recovery and the mindset to persevere

Three days later, he became seriously ill with sepsis and needed to be taken to Swedish First Hill campus in Seattle via ambulance. Once there, he spent the next two weeks in a medically induced coma as his providers worked to treat his infection and repair the damage it had done. He spent another two and a half months in inpatient recovery, during which he received physical and occupational therapy to regain his mobility.

The Lemkes credit Jeff’s bariatric surgical care team, led by Anirban Gupta, M.D., with seeing them through this difficult time.

“During those weeks when Jeff was fighting for his life, Dr. Gupta was always straight with us about the challenges and ready to celebrate the achievements,” says Teri. “He really instilled a mindset that helped us persevere through Jeff’s recovery and on to successful long-term weight loss. He saved my husband, and he’s like family to us now.”

Dr. Gupta says that the lifesaving care Jeff received was made possible by the integrated care team and their facilities at Swedish First Hill.

“The hallmark of a great team is not just about making sure the surgery goes well, but being able to rescue and recover when things don’t go as planned,” Dr. Gupta says. “It’s about being ready with the right people and the right tools both upstream when things are going well, and downstream in the rare moments when complications occur.”

Life after gastric bypass

Jeff’s journey after leaving Swedish First Hill campus is one of steady progress. Within a few months, he was walking two to three miles a day. By August 2023, Dr. Gupta cleared him for a move to Missouri, where he and Teri could enjoy their great grandchildren during retirement. To date, he’s lost about 200 pounds. And while his recovery had its trying moments, he says the results have made it all worthwhile.

“Before my surgery, I was so unhealthy,” says Jeff. “I couldn’t walk 350 feet without needing to rest. We went on vacation and I couldn’t walk on the beach. I’m not sure I would have made it another year at my old weight.”

Together, Jeff and Teri are moving forward committed to supporting each other’s health.

“Once the surgery is over, that’s when the real work begins,” says Teri. “Your spouse, your loved ones, your entire family needs to be ready to support you. Jeff and I are so happy that we get to do that for each other.”

Learn more and find a physician or advanced practice clinician (APC)

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Contact Swedish Weight Loss Services to learn more about what types of weight loss programs might be right for you. You can connect virtually with your provider to review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. And with Swedish ExpressCare Virtual you can receive treatment in minutes for common conditions such as colds, flu, urinary tract infections and more. Use our provider directory to find a specialist or primary care physician near you.

Information for patients and visitors

Related resources

Reduce your weight to increase your health

Swedish Weight Loss Services helps a patient lose over 80 pounds and regain her joy

Swedish’s medical weight loss program offers more options for a healthier future

Providence Swedish experts in the media

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and X

About the Author

The Swedish Weight Loss team is dedicated to helping you find the right care you need to achieve the weight goals you desire. Whether it's surgical or non-surgical solutions, BMI check-ins or nutritional advice, our team is here to provide the expert tips and insights to help you find your optimal weight.

More Content by Swedish Weight Loss Team

No Previous Articles

Next Article
Swedish Weight Loss Services helps a patient lose over 80 pounds and regain her joy
Swedish Weight Loss Services helps a patient lose over 80 pounds and regain her joy

Swedish Health patient Annie Smith lost more than 80 pounds thanks to sleeve gastrectomy surgery. Her only ...