11 years ago today, July 30th 2003, I weighed 476 pounds and faced certain death within the
next 6 months. This was literally the most scariest night of my life, as I was about to undergo a Gastric Bypass surgery at 6am the next morning, July 31st 2003, in which, what my doctors said, was a 75% chance I would die during the surgery. As I write this my hands are actually trebling as I remember what was to happen over the coming 8 hours. This is my story.
In February 2003, I visited my doctor because I was experiencing something that has never happened to me before. I was constantly getting full from very little I was eating. To many, this wouldn’t seem to be a problem, to me it was. I loved food and loved to eat. So when I went to the doctor and told him this, I expected him to think it was absurd, but to my surprise he didn’t and told me that he wanted me to take sonograms and tests to prove to me what he and other doctors have said he has been warning me of all my life. I went in for the tests and a few days later I get a call from him telling me to come in for the results. I said I would make an appointment and come in, he said, “No come in now, I’m waiting” and hung up the phone. Well, I don’t have to tell you how concerned that made me as I rushed out to see him. When I get there, he brought me right in his office and told me that over 40% of my organs were infiltrated with fat and I wasn’t going to live to see Christmas. Not only that but he also told me how and said I was going to most likely die of congestive heart failure and die in my sleep. Imaging the shock I was in to hear such a thing. See at this time in my life, I had just lost my father to Leukemia. He was diagnosed and 9 months later gone. In his dying days he told me to please take care of myself and lose weight because now that he won’t be here who would the family turn to. At that time I was also the father to 9 year old triplets, 2 girls and 1 boy. Now I am facing certain death. So I asked him what I should do and he told me that Gastric Bypass surgery was my only option and because of the situation and medical condition I put myself in, there was a 75% chance of dying on the table. I accepted the fact of my death and went home to tell my wife. When I sit her down and tell her this story she immediately started crying and asked, “So what are you going to do now?” I said, “Nothing, I have no choice.” I never will forget the look on her face as it went blank. The tears stopped and anger set in as she said to me, ” You have never given up on anything in your life and you’re giving up on this? You just lost your father at 39 years old and you still can’t understand why he died. How do you think 39 year olds are going to make any sense out of losing their father?” I turned to her and said “What am I supposed to do? There is a 75% chance I would die during the surgery.” She replied “There’s a 100% chance you’re going to die anyway in a few months, at least go out fighting.” This is the moment that changed my life forever. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I now was totally focused on taking the next steps toward finding the right doctor to perform this life threatening, but life changing surgery. At this time, what now seems so common place, Gastric Bypass surgery, was still being developed and new ways of doing it were still being found.
I asked my doctor for recommendations, he gave me a few, I interviewed them and could not be comfortable with any one of them. I then researched it myself and after interviewing a dozen different doctors I found Dr. Rafael Capella, I went to an informational seminar with about 50 other people and found him to be the one I wanted. I remember being so excited to find the right doctor, as he had me go through tests to make sure everything was going to be fine. He then set the date for December and I went back to my doctor to tell him the great news. When I went to my primary doctor to tell him this he asked if I had his card, I gave it to him and he immediately called Dr, Cappella. I sat there and wondered what was going on, that’s when his conversation started and I heard him say “You can cancel Thomas Camarda’s surgery, he won’t be alive for it in December.” Tears rolled down my face as I now knew all hope was gone, until my doctor forced the surgeon to move the date to July 31st. I don’t have to tell you how much of a hero I thought this man was.
As the time for the surgery drawn near, I remember the feeling of my legs giving out, my sleep apnea getting worse, my falling asleep at the wheel. I really thought i wasn’t going to make it to the surgery but the closer the date came the more excited I became to have it. On Saturday, July 26th, I had a huge party with over 150 people in my backyard for a barbeque, let’s face it, if I was going to die during this surgery, I wanted to see everyone before, so I called the party, “The Last Supper Party” everyone came and had a great time. I was going around so positive, telling people that next year at the same time I would have another party and the only difference was that I would be 225 pounds. Now I know that that was me losing over 250 pounds, but that what I intended to do and nothing could change my mind. The funny thing was that people were telling me not to worry about how much, even if I lose 50 or 100 pounds it’s ok. I love them all but what’s funny is how people put limitations on things they don’t even have a say in. I wasn’t going under a life threatening surgery to lose a few pounds. I’ve been on many diets in my life and have collectively lost over 1,000 pounds. All of them worked, I didn’t. This had to be the last one, so I wanted it all.
July 31st 2003 at 5am I arrived at Hackensack University Hospital, in Hackensack, NJ. I remember getting prepped for the surgery and now had a few minutes with my family, this was the most emotional time of my life. My wife, my 3 children and my mother were all there. This, what I felt, was my time to say goodbye to them all. I prepared a letter for each of them telling them how much I loved them. Gave the letters to my wife and told her to only open it and give them to everyone if I don’t make it. I realized that there was a 75% chance I was going to die within the next hour. What things go through a person’s head knowing this. Now they come into the room to take me for surgery, and I remember waving to the 4 people I loved the most in my life and as soon as they were out of sight, once again tears rolled down my face. All at once, I remembered something at that very moment. My Dad popped into my head and a conversation I had with him only a few months before his death. He told me “I know why I’m Dying”. I asked “Why?” he replied, “I’m finished, I raised 3 beautiful kids with a women I loved all my life and you all are established and doing well. I did my job here and I’m ready to go home now. I’m finished.” Then the thought of him telling me to take care of myself and lose weight. I instantly jumped up and shouted “I’m Not Finished!” turned to God my father and said “God, Please get me through this, I know you will get me through this. I’m Not Finished, I Still Have Work To Do Here, Plenty Of Work To Do Here, Your Work To Do Here!” Suddenly a calm rolled over my entire body, I never felt before. I actually know that God’s hand touched me, he heard everything I said and came to me to let me know everything was going to be ok. I remember counting backwards from 100, I think I got to 97. 49 minutes later the was done, I wasn’t finished.
Coming out of this surgery was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life, I had what they call a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, The picture shows you what was done, but basically I was chopped, sliced, and diced and felt every bit of it, and it was all worth it. Every day I said to myself, “You’re going to be 225 pound wow, imaging that” Then I started actually dreaming what I would look like at 225 , I said it, thought it, and slept it every day and the weight was falling off me. No longer did I love food and loved to eat, I simply changed the way of thinking from, live to eat, to, eat to live, and it wasn’t that important to me anymore. I started looking at labels for fat content, and how much protein foods had. I was walking more, even running, I haven’t done that since I was a kid. But I refused to look at a scale, I didn’t even want to know how much I weighed or how much I was losing, even when the doctor weighed me every month on follow ups. I knew I was going to be 225 in a year and that was it.
Fast forward to Saturday, July 31st, 2004, 1 year to the day of my surgery. I promised everyone I would and I did, I threw a big party, invited all my friends and family and called it, the “If You Can See Me Now Party” I remember being up in my room looking out the window as everyone come in to the yard and as I was about to walk out I remembered I had to weigh myself. This would actually be the 1st time in a whole year and all I knew was “I better see 225”. I take the scale out, It was a digital scale, I placed it down on the floor, and hesitantly put my left foot on it. As I watched the numbers flickering I remember being so nervous as I put my right foot on the scale. I didn’t even want to look and was staring myself in the mirror. Then all at once I dropped my head to see what the number read and shouted, “YES!!!” and jumped off the scale. I was so shocked I had to jump back on to be sure I wasn’t nuts, and now with all the confidence I have put both feet on the scale watching as the numbers flickered and stopped at … 224.7. What a total success I felt, as though I can rule the world. I now felt If I can
do this I can do anything. Now it’s time to great my guests, many of which have not seen me in a whole year since I was 476 pounds. I never will forget the looks on the faces of my friends and family as I walked out the door to the song “If they can see me now” What the mind can do, all I thought and lived the whole year was knowing I was going to be 225 pound on this very day, I go weigh myself to actually come in 3 tenths of a pound less without even looking at a scale in a whole year.
The following year I lost another 73 pounds and have maintained my weight of around 160 pound till today. In the last 11 years I have devoted my life to helping others do things they have felt they would never accomplish. No, you can’t just speak words and it will happen, you speak word into action and they happen. in 2009 I started helping people connect through networking and teaching people communication and business relationship skills and started The Ultimate Networking Group. Through this group and it’s events, we have helped tens of thousands of business people succeed. I write this with the hope of touching the life of people that think they have a lost cause, that can never accomplish something because they feel it’s impossible. don’t ever try to do anything, just keep doing it till it works, and watch what will happen.
At the bottom I’ve added a few links if you want to know more about where I went for my surgery and the people who helped me.
Please feel free to connect with me directly and join my Group on LinkedIn:
The Ultimate Networking Event Live – http://tinyurl.com/pg4xqpz
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Copyright © 2014 – Thomas Camarda.
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Thomas Camarda is a professional networker, expert in his field, and speaks at networking events and seminars nationally. Thomas offers Networking training, both one-on-one or for your Networking Group.
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