ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A new minimally invasive bariatric procedure is helping people lose weight with less downtime than traditional weight loss surgery.
Leonard Degallerie's mother said her son's weight issues started in childhood.
"He had a stomach virus. The doctor said it was a stomach bug, gave him a shot and after he came home he was just like gaining 10 pounds a week. It was like something in that medication just triggered him that he had to eat and since then he would just gain weight and just keep gaining," explained Paullette Degallerie.
His weight was getting dangerously high.
"In 2011 he was bedridden. It was terrible. I had to call for help. He was 620 pounds at that time and he was only 14," Degallerie said.
He reached a point in his twenties when he couldn't do anything for himself.
"That's when it was a breaking point - 918 pounds. He said, ‘Mommy, I've been trying my best and I know I don't want to die.’ And that just hit me," shared Degallerie.
To save his life, they turned to bariatric surgeon Dr. Alexander Ramirez with Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.
"The other option was to send him to some hospice care because nothing was working for him," explained Dr. Ramirez. "It's either you have the surgery and save your life or you don't take the surgery and you might lose your life."
To mitigate any risks, Leonard worked with hospital nutritionists to shed more than 100 pounds before the robotic sleeve gastrectomy.
It's a fairly new procedure that reduces the size of the stomach to help Leonard lose weight.
"Definitely the first case that I did on somebody that is more than 900 pounds. Especially in his case doing surgery on anyone more than 500 pounds is very high risk for pulmonary complications.
Using the robot allows us to do that surgery with just three small incisions so patients can have less pain, less scarring," said Dr. Ramirez.
"He said I always pray for my patients before I do a surgery and that's the first time I've ever heard a doctor say that," shared Degallerie.
Two weeks after surgery Leonard was walking. Now more than a year later, he said life continues to get better.
"Feels amazing. Now I'm 454 pounds. I can do everything now. I don't get tired, out of breath, nothing," Leonard said.
"He said he wants to finish school because he didn't finish school due to his weight. He said he wants to get his license. There's a lot of things that he wants to do that he didn't have the chance to do," stated Degallerie.
Click here for more information about the surgery.