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Patrick's Story

Weight reduced by 42%; he’s now boxing, walking for miles

Before his gastric bypass operation, Patrick Doepfer despised his job.

As a U.S. government safety inspector for the rail industry, he has to walk the entire length of trains – and, of course, back again – to ensure every railcar is safe and in proper order. Those inspection walks in the expansive rail yards can easily add up to miles each day. Especially for his territory which covers parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.

It was an extremely difficult task for a 509-pound man.

But now, Patrick looks forward to those walks – after reducing his weight by 42 percent he now weighs 295 pounds. Dr. D’Arcy Duke performed the gastric bypass surgery.

“I feel great now. I’m able to do my job and live the way I want,” said the 34-year-old resident of Johnstown’s West End neighborhood.

“The weight was hurting my health and really impeding my ability to do the things I wanted – and needed – to do. I had to make some major changes in my life. I did and I’m thrilled with the results – and so is my wife.”

The dramatic weight loss has given Patrick back his energy and confidence. And it, of course, has meant an investment in an entirely new wardrobe.

“I know that I look a lot better now. I’m actually excited every time I try on new clothes,” he said. “I feel like a new person with a lot more energy.”

Patrick boxing

Some days, there’s a little too much energy and he looks forward to expending some of it boxing in a local gym. “It’s a great cardio workout and a good way to keep the pounds off, too,” said Patrick, before adding with a smile that “my back no longer hurts from the extra weight. It hurts from boxing.”

In addition, he now volunteers at a youth program at the gym each Saturday. “It keeps kids physically active and off the street. It provides them with a meal and sometimes, just someone to talk with.”

Having someone to talk with about weight loss and bariatric surgery was easy, he said, at the Conemaugh Bariatric and Weight Loss Center.

“Dr. Duke (surgeon), Jessica Custer (practitioner nurse) and Pam Shiley (dietitian) are great. They’re always there for you. They explain everything, prepare you and support you every inch of the way,” he said.

Dr. Duke says she’s “extremely proud” of Patrick. “It’s great to see him succeed, blossom and become be so successful.”

Many patients feel defeated and struggle with low self-esteem because of their weight. “But ultimately, they are the ones in control,” she said. “Bariatric operations are a tool we provide so they can change and take control of this aspect of their lives.

“It's really the reason that I do this surgery. It’s so rewarding to see people become their best selves. And Patrick is a such great example of that.”

Patrick admits the thought of surgery was a bit scary at first. “But the more we talked about taking baby steps in preparing for it, the better it was, and the more real it became,” he said. “In the end, it’s really worth it. Without a doubt.”

His goal is to remain active and fit, and to keep knocking off the pounds until he gets down to about 250 – maybe as low as 210 pounds.

“Pam thinks I can do it,” he said with a grin. “And now so do I.”

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