Nick Moukazis used to weigh 530 pounds. At that size, he wasn’t able to fit in a seat in the theater for his 10-year-old daughter’s dance recital. He had to wait outside until the show was over. When his daughter came out, Nick was waiting with a bouquet of roses for her. But he could see right away that she was upset.
“Katarina, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“They just did the father-daughter dance,” Katarina said, “and I didn’t get to do it with you.”
That was the day Nick decided he had to make a change.
With a body mass index (BMI) of 75, Nick was so obese that most doctors would reject him as a candidate for weight loss surgery. But Nick found help from Dr. Ragui Sadek, Director of the Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Dr. Sadek and his team run a high-risk program for obese patients who are turned down by other bariatric surgeons. According to Dr. Sadek, when obesity is as severe as it was in Nick’s case, there is a much higher risk of complications during surgery. Visualization is difficult, and operation times tend to be longer.
In order to successfully treat these high-risk patients, the RWJ Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery employs only the most highly skilled operating room nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons. Thanks to its top-notch staff, and an advanced, well-structured preparation program for patients, the center has a complication rate that is lower than the national average, despite taking patients with a higher risk of complications.
Bariatric Surgery Worked For Nick Moukazis
Studies have shown that patients who lose weight prior to surgery have better outcomes; so Dr. Sadek gave Nick a strict diet to follow, and asked him to lose 40 pounds before his surgery. Nick went above and beyond his doctor’s request. He lost 130 pounds.
“It was very exceptional” Dr. Sadek said, “and it showed his determination and his perseverance to reach his goal.”
In September of 2016, Nick, now 398 pounds, underwent a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. The procedure removed the greater part of his stomach to control his appetite and trigger metabolic changes that would help him lose significant weight.
Nick said the recovery was painful at first, because he couldn’t touch so many foods that he used to eat all the time. But once he adjusted, he was on his way to a better, healthier life.
In June of 2017, on Father’s Day, one year after he decided to change his life, Nick was able to dance with Katarina at her recital.
“People need to know that when they do something like this, it transforms your life,” Nick said. “You get to do a lot of things you couldn’t do. […] Before surgery, I was embarrassed to get out of my truck. I couldn’t go to my daughter’s school events and plays because I was embarrassed. Now, I do everything with her.”
Today, the 45-year-old father of two weighs 180 pounds. Nick follows a healthy diet, no longer consuming heavy carbs, soda, or beer. He walks every single day, no matter the weather. He wants to get another surgery to remove his excess skin, but his medical insurance will not cover it.
Even with that obstacle, Nick is thrilled with how his life has changed. He expressed immense gratitude toward Dr. Sadek, whom he described as “very outgoing and caring.”
“Nick was a very personal case,” Dr. Sadek said, “because this is what I went into medicine for. Every day you change people’s lives, and that’s the joy of being in medicine.
All Photos: Provided by RWJBarnabas Health