A new lease of life as a truly free man

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - Katja Hamil­ton Com­mer­cial Fea­tures writer

AT 48, TIM FREE­MAN is a slim man. He cy­cles on the week­ends, runs and is an avid walker. He has an ac­tive so­cial life and loves spending time with his fam­ily and friends as well as tak­ing care of his house. His value of life shines through.

But things weren’t al­ways this good for Tim. Sit­ting along­side him at his of­fice desk, he shows me a pho­to­graph of what he looked like two years ago – at 186kg. It is as if I am looking at two dif­fer­ent men.

Tim re­calls the be­gin­nings of a painful 14-year jour­ney.

Trig­gered by the pres­sures of be­ing over­worked, he be­gan binge eat­ing. In the early days, eight pies and a cold drink ev­ery day at the of­fice soothed his anx­i­ety, but over the years, the quan­ti­ties of food he ate in­creased.

“Even­tu­ally I was buy­ing whole chick­ens. What I con­sumed in a week then would prob­a­bly be my monthly gro­ceries now,” says Tim.

At the low­est time in his life, Tim weighed 198kg.

Tim re­counts the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of his choices.

“For many years I could only sleep sit­ting upright. Ly­ing down meant the ex­cess weight around my neck could con­strict my breath­ing and I feared chok­ing to death. I couldn’t tie my own shoelaces, couldn’t sit on chairs for fear of break­ing them or sleep over at friends’ houses be­cause I would break their beds. Peo­ple didn’t like me around. I was an em­bar­rass­ment to them,” he says.

“I men­tion this only be­cause I want peo­ple who are fac­ing mor­bid obe­sity to see where I’ve been, the stages I went through that got me to this point in my life and to recog­nise th­ese symp­toms in them­selves. They need to know that if they con­tinue to live the way that I did, they will face an early death.”

Tim hit rock bot­tom at a phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion – his doc­tor said he only had six months to live – un­less he had surgery.

At this point Tim agreed to have a gas­tric by­pass – a weight­loss op­er­a­tion i n which the stom­ach is made smaller and part of the small in­tes­tine is by­passed, re­duc­ing the amount of food a per­son can eat.

Sup­ported by a med­i­cal team, in­clud­ing a psy­chol­o­gist, di­eti­cian, bioki­neti­cist and en­docri­nol­o­gist, he was pre­pared for his surgery at Life Kings­bury Hospi­tal’s GIT clinic in Fe­bru­ary last year.

“I was ex­cited, but ner­vous. I knew that I was be­ing given a new lease of life and that I could hope­fully live for many years to come.”

The op­er­a­tion was a huge suc­cess and set a prece­dent as it formed part of his med­i­cal aid’s pi­lot project, which aims to re­view and launch a new set of guide­lines re­gard­ing med­i­cal aid claims for gas­tric by­pass surgery in South Africa.

Tim’s ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment to his weight loss af­ter the op­er­a­tion is an in­spi­ra­tion.

“I did ev­ery­thing by the book. What­ever the ex­perts asked of me, I did. I didn’t think I could just sit back and wait for the fat to fall off. I knew I had to work hard. I ate right and ex­er­cised and be­gan los­ing nine to 11kg a month. Nine­teen months later, I’ve lost 100kg and I’m still work­ing ex­cess weight off.

“This ex­pe­ri­ence has com­pletely changed my life.

“Now I am in­vited to places. Friends come visit me. Go­ing out is fan­tas­tic and I can so­cialise. Col­leagues and friends com­pli­ment me ev­ery day.”

To­day Tim is reach­ing out to help oth­ers in the same boat he was in. He has shared his story at a med­i­cal con­ven­tion and at a well­ness day re­cently, and his talks in­spire oth­ers.

“I can­not be­lieve the num­ber of peo­ple who have emailed me to say how my life story has in­spired them to make healthy life­style choices,” he says.

His wish is to write a book on his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence and to be a pro­fes­sional mo­ti­va­tional speaker one day.

“My ad­vice to any­one who is over­weight is: ‘ Don’t wait un­til you’re at death’s door to make the changes you need to in your life, do so now oth­er­wise you might not get the same sec­ond chance in life that I did.”

If you want to hear Tim's story, catch him on Satur­day, Novem­ber 21, at Life Kings­bury Hospi­tal, where he’ll be giv­ing a talk at the open day.



TEAM WORK: Dr Gra­ham Sta­ple­ton (sur­geon), Gill Gib­son (co-or­di­na­tor), Rozan Newfeldt (hospi­tal man­ager), Lynette Hub­bard (pa­tient), Dr John Turner (physi­cian), Magda Prince (unit man­ager), Dr John Marr (sur­geon), Jenna Thomas (bioki­neti­cist) and Claire McMa­hon (di­eti­cian) sup­port and ad­vise their pa­tients be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter surgery.

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