News From Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center

Despite regular physical activity, Josh Ellis has struggled his whole life to find and maintain a healthy body weight. Ellis lives in South Knoxville with his wife and two daughters, and in addition to his full-time job, takes care of his farm. He sought weight loss options at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, and after undergoing bariatric surgery in 2019, found confidence in himself and his size.

Josh BEFORE bariatric surgery

Before surgery daily activities like mowing lawns and feeding the farm animals put strain on Ellis’ joints. He recalls knee and shoulder pain in particular.

“I was tired of being big.  I woke up one day and realized I wanted to live longer. I wanted to watch my kids grow up and eventually see grand kids. The lifestyle I had was not going to accommodate that.”

Last year, Ellis attended an informational seminar about weight-loss surgery where he met Jonathan Ray, MD, board certified general and bariatric surgeon with Foothills Weight Loss Surgeons at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. Knowing other people who had success with Dr. Ray and bariatric surgery, Ellis knew he was in good hands. At his heaviest, Ellis weighed 415 pounds and had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 53. He took medication to curb his high blood pressure and slept with a CPAP machine to treat his sleep apnea.

Josh feels fantastic and is down 225 pounds a year after robotic gastric bypass surgery

Gastric Bypass
Ellis underwent robotic gastric bypass surgery in December 2019 at Fort
Sanders Regional. Gastric bypass surgery changes how your stomach and small intestine handle the food you eat. Using a laparoscopic incision, the surgeon reduces the stomach size and creates an outlet to the small intestine, or a “bypass.” The result is a person feeling satiated with less food.

Robotic-assisted surgery uses a robotic platform that combines a surgeon’s skill with computer-enhanced laparoscopic technology. Robotic-assisted surgeries are minimally invasive, leading to less pain, shorter hospital stays and a quicker recovery.

Today, Ellis says he’s doing great. In one year, he lost 225 pounds and reports no sign of sleep apnea or high blood pressure, and no longer requires medication. “It’s a really good feeling.” Ellis laughs when he says , “I feel strong, which is good because I’m about half the person I was before.”

Emotional Changes and Challenges
Ellis says the physical change following surgery was immediate. “It’s definitely a complete lifestyle change with eating habits. On a regular diet, you still crave that big bowl of ice cream. But with surgery, it’s different — your mind may want it but your body doesn’t. Emotionally, Ellis’ confidence has surged after losing some weight. “I don’t think I ever realized I wasn’t confident. But I notice now I have more confidence when I talk to people.

Freed from a Burden
Dr. Ray says, “We want people to know this option is available to them. For many patients, weight loss remarkably improves their heart’s ability to beat. We see patients reverse heart disease and coronary artery disease, resolve diabetes and improve cholesterol.”

He continues, “When they see the change in themselves, it’s freeing, like a burden lifted, and Josh Ellis is an example of that. He worked hard and got his life back.

Dr. Jonathan Ray, Bariatric Surgeon

Education is Key
Dr. Ray says, “We make a commitment in our practice to follow patients for the rest of their life – they have a choice of course, but regular follow-up appointments are recommended. We also want to make sure patients have the knowledge beforehand  to make the decision about whether surgery is right for them. They attend education classes in the weeks before surgery and have materials they can review at home.”

Ellis says he has been the most surprised by the renewed amounts of energy he experienced. “When you are used to your joints and body aching, you can sometimes block it out. Now they don’t hurt – not my knees, shoulders, or anything. We go hiking more now. We take the girls to Cades Cove and hike for three or four miles, which was rare before.”

To anyone considering a similar procedure, Ellis advises to be selective when researching, and consider the information source. He says, “Make your mind up that it’s going to be a lifestyle change before you have the surgery. Then, I say go for it!”

If you’re considering bariatric surgery, check out Foothills Weight Loss Surgeon’s FREE informational seminar at  It’s the FIRST step towards a new you!   QUESTIONS?  Call our office at (865) 984-3413.