A new lease of life as a truly free man
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.