High School Teacher Trains for a Marathon After Bariatric Surgery

October 12, 2021

At 35 years old, Andrew Truong had a list of health conditions typically seen in much older people. In addition to weighing 300 pounds, he had high blood pressure, sleep apnea, diabetes, sciatic pain and fatty liver.

“I’ve been heavy my whole life,” Andrew says. “I’d lose some weight, then gain it back plus some. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t keep it off.”

In fact, in 2015, Truong lost more than 60 pounds through diet and exercise but eventually gained it all back.

“That can be absolutely devastating to patients,” says Hans Schmidt, M.D., a bariatric surgeon at Hackensack University Medical Center. “There’s a reason only about 5 percent of morbidly obese people can lose the weight and keep it off for two years: It’s really, really hard.”

Wasting No Time

In early 2019, Andrew, a high school math and computer science teacher, travelled with his students to Spain. While there, he questioned his colleague about her husband’s recent gastric sleeve operation.

“The last time I saw her husband, he looked amazing,” Andrew says. “I had to know all about it. I knew I wanted to do it, so I asked her everything.”

Upon his return to New Jersey, he met with Dr. Schmidt for a consultation. There, he mentioned to Dr. Schmidt that he was planning to take his students on a trip to London in July. Rather than wait until he got back, they booked his gastric sleeve surgery right away.

“To lose 100 pounds on your own, you have to make more than a slight modification to your diet,” Dr. Schmidt says. “It’s a restructuring of everything you do, and it’s really hard to do that without help.”

On June 21, 2019, Dr. Schmidt performed a one-hour procedure called a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, which removes a large portion of the patient’s stomach and changes their relationship to food.

“I was definitely nervous. I don’t like hospitals,” Andrew says. “I was really scared, but everyone at Hackensack was so friendly. Before the surgery, a nurse put on some music and started dancing with me. It’s so silly but that moment of kindness calmed me down.”

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

The morning after the surgery, Andrew was determined to get up-and-moving. He slowly walked the halls of the hospital knowing that the movement would help speed his recovery. Later that day, he was discharged and given a liquid diet for the following two weeks.

More than two years later, Andrew has not only kept off the weight—he’s now 165 pounds—he’s training to run a marathon.

“I feel really good now,” he says. “I never thought I’d look or feel this way. I just thought I was dealt the fat card in life, and that’s what I had to deal with.”

Today, he runs and exercises regularly, eats lots of eggs and green smoothies, and indulges in the occasional treat from time to time. But his focus remains on his new body and weight.

“My number one fear in life is gaining all the weight back,” Andrew says. “I refuse to go back to that place. I’m thankful for Hackensack Meridian Health, especially Dr. Schmitt, for giving me a new chance at life.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.