Weight Loss Surgery: Ron Payne's Journey
Many words, many truths lead to many successes
Over several years, many different people told Ron Payne, 39, of Kernersville, many different things to help him decide on and succeed with weight loss. There was the time on his honeymoon, for example, when he wanted to go zip lining and horseback riding.
“The guide said it wasn’t an option for me,” he recalls. “His exact words were, ‘we’re not putting you up on that horse.’”
Fast forward several years, in 2018, he joined his older son and wife in taking taekwondo (martial arts) classes. Over several months, he began feeling better, eating better and had more energy. He was up to working out four times a week.
Still, he lost not one pound. Ron shared his disappointment in not losing weight with another class participant, who happened to be a physician. “He told me, ‘I’m surprised that you haven’t lost weight. I’ve seen you working hard during these classes for almost an entire year.’”
Words to inspire
Later, he had another conversation. That Fall, Ron and his wife, Jennifer, had dinner out with friends before a Billy Joel concert.
“I was 100 lbs. heavier the last time I went to a concert,” their friend told them at dinner. Ron had already noticed curiously that she had cut off a “postage size” piece of meat and boxed up the rest. “I had stomach surgery last year,” she explained, “and now, I can eat what I want, but I can also buckle an airplane seat and fit in a booth. And I have way more energy.”
“I said to myself, ‘I like all those things. I want more energy. And I want to fit in a booth, too.’
“Plus, I knew that my present weight and health were not sustainable.”
Getting to the right point
At that time, Ron weighed about 280 pounds. He’d had serious heartburn for almost a decade and now had early signs of sleep apnea.
Importantly, he also keenly felt how much he was missing out on things important to him, like being as active as he wanted to be with family—his wife and two sons, ages one and nine.
Ron’s job as a family and estate planning lawyer requires hours of sitting in his office or in court. So for years, he had always tried to remain active outside of work. He hiked and camped with his family. In 2013, he even completed a “Spartan Race Trifecta,” a five km, 20-obstacle race held at locations all over the world. He competed in Georgia, South Carolina and Illinois. He had used a personal trainer and tried special diets.
Even with this activity, the weight remained, and his quality of life declined.
“At work, I’d get winded climbing the steps to the court house,” he says. “Camping with scouts, I’d have to take a break after just setting up one tent. Many things with the kids, like jumping on the trampoline, weren’t an option for me.”
And when his youngest son wanted him to get on the floor to play with him, Ron recalls, “getting back up was always a big deal.”
Immediately after that pre-concert dinner with friends in October 2018, he began exploring bariatric weight loss surgery. He dove into researching various programs in the area, tapping in to the same strong research skills he used to prepare for court cases.
He shared his thoughts and his research with his wife, who offered extraordinary support.
“I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked this past year, and you’ve done all you can do,” she says. “Let’s look into this further.”
She joined in his research and together, they decided on the Cone Health Bariatric Weight Loss Program.
“By the time I got to Dr. [Matthew] Martin’s office for my first appointment, I was 90 percent there (ready to have the surgery),” Ron says. “But by the time I left his office, I was 100 percent ready. From my research and then meeting the team, I trusted them. And they were encouraging.”
The week before Christmas that same year, Ron had surgery.
The encouragement continued from his family and friends. Good words also came to him in the form of support by the Cone Health bariatric team.
“The folks at Cone Health have been amazing,” he says. “They were super responsive to my questions and concerns before surgery and afterward.”
That ready access to the bariatric nurse, dietitian, physician and others puts the Cone Health program way ahead of others that he researched, Ron says. And it’s one reason he chose Cone Health for this procedure.
“I know from speaking with people who had bariatric surgery elsewhere, not everyone has this kind of support,” he says. “It’s been awesome to have them just a phone call or email away. They’ve been a huge factor in my success.”
Ron is now 100 pounds lighter and is free from heartburn and sleep apnea. And he’s certainly found the energy he longed for.
Last fall, about a year after surgery, he once again helped organize a busy camping weekend with his scouts, Pack 51 based at Elon Community Church. That group consisted of his son and 35 other kids aged seven to 11. Being winded after pitching a tent was hardly a concern this time.
“During previous trips, once I crossed the 8,000-step threshold, my body hurt like I’d run a marathon,” he says. “But for this trip, I’d hiked 14,000 steps by the time we set up camp and was fine. I got up the next day like it was nothing.”
With such experiences, Ron well understands why everyone he talked to before having bariatric surgery said they wished they’d had surgery sooner.
“I knew I’d done everything I could do to lose weight, and my kids are in the best years of their lives,” he says. “Why would I want to put this off any longer?”
He, his wife and kids are now setting their sights on even more adventures: a hike-in weekend trip in the North Carolina mountains, revisiting that Spartan Race to compare his time from seven years ago, and maybe even a backpack and camping trip to Italy or Ireland.
“And I fully intend to take advantage of horseback riding and zip lining at my next opportunity,” he says.