PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Obesity is a major medical problem in America. Some who are battling this health issue are those who’ve served on the battlefield.
A military veteran from Clarks Summit says he conquered his battle with morbid obesity with help from the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center. He shared his story with Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller.
“I was 400 pounds. Not quite 401 yet.” To say Charles Pond is half the man he used to be would not be wrong. After weighing more than 400 pounds in January 2018, the U.S. Army and Air Force vet is now down to about 200. “I’ll be 57 on July 13th,” said Mr. Pond. “I actually feel like I’m 16.”
It’s a far cry from the way Mr. Pond felt the previous year. He blames his earlier morbid obesity on injuries he suffered during his 16 years of military service. “I broke my back, fractured my neck and destroyed both my knees.” Needing to take action with his weight out of control, he turned to a program introduced in 2017 at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center. “Was I a little skeptical? Yeah, because there is no magic pill.”
Mr. Pond underwent a form of bariatric surgery in June 2018 called gastric sleeve which resulted in removing roughly 80 percent of his stomach. “The advantage of this is that it is relatively straight forward surgery,” said Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Mirza Ali, MD. “It’s a tool for losing weight. It gives you a head start. And when you get lighter, your joints feel better. You’re able to exercise more. You’re more active. So, it is a series of cascading benefits that come from the rapid weight loss.”
Mr. Pond’s cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar readings are all now at healthy levels. And his size 56 waistline is now down to a 28. He still has pain, but it’s something his slimmer self can manage. “Along with my energy increase that I’ve got, I’ve also used that pain as more of a way of saying let’s go. We can work through this now.”
Mr. Pond also credits improved diet for his lasting results especially incorporating more protein into his meals. He is among 42 vets who’ve undergone bariatric surgery at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center in the last two years. Ghazali Chaudry, MD FACS has performed all of the procedures. Before Dr. Chaudry initiated the program at the Plains Township facility, veterans in need would have to go to Pittsburgh for the procedure.