News from Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center

Even before they tied the gastric knot, they had seen the best and worst of one another. In one photo, there was Dwayne Linger – all 387 pounds of him. In another, there he was at 180.

Likewise, Allenna Mullins had posted her photos to the same social media page. In one photo, she weighed 298. In another, there she was, also at 180. As Dwayne Linger tells it, “She looked hot!”

Allenna and DeWayne now enjoy zip-lining, hiking and riding roller coasters they were once too large to ride.

The two patients of Fort Sanders Medical Center and Foothills Weight Loss bariatric surgeon Jonathan Ray, MD, became one last Halloween. They said their vows in a courthouse ceremony followed by a reception at their Strawberry Plains home with the bride dressed as a “beautiful witch” and the bridegroom as the character Michael Myers from the Halloween movie series.

They honeymooned in Chattanooga, visiting Rock City and slipping easily between the two gigantic boulders known as “Fat Man Squeeze.” “Before the surgery, there was no way we could squeeze through some of those areas at Rock City because they are so tight,” says Allenna.

“Before the surgery” is a phrase heard often among bariatric patients like the Lingers. For most, bariatric surgeries such as the Rouxen-Y gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve mark a rebirth of sorts.

“I just have to thank God because it totally changed me,” Dwayne says of the Roux-en-Y bypass he had in 2018. “Totally changed me from the inside out.”

Allenna before bariatric surgery

Before surgery the couple weighed a combined 685 pounds.

No exaggeration there. Inside, his stomach’s capacity has shrunk from the size of about three gallon milk jugs to about the size of a baseball. Outside, the 57-year-old former restaurateur, who once was tethered to an oxygen tank and unable to do much of anything, is teeming with energy and has gone from wearing size 58 pants to 28- to 32-inch pants.

“I couldn’t get around, I was always tired and wore out, couldn’t go outside or go more than 20 feet without having to sit down,” says Dwayne. “Now, I can do anything!”

The same is true for Allenna, who initially lost 50 pounds via a gastric sleeve surgery in 2016. But after experiencing severe acid reflux, she turned to Dr. Ray for a gastric bypass two years later and lost another 68 pounds. She went from a size 4X to fitting into a size 2, and now enjoys mowing the lawn and playing outside with her 5-year-old son.

Today the couple enjoys zip-lining, hiking, and riding roller coasters they were once too big to ride. Dwayne is also making plans to go hang gliding and maybe even skydiving. “I don’t feel like I’m 57 years old,” explains Dwayne. “I feel like I’m in my 30s, having fun. I’m just so full of  adrenaline, it’s awesome.”

“Just picture yourself at 100, 200, 500 pounds overweight. What can you do?” Dr. Ray asks rhetorically. “You get people to feed you. You get people to bring food to you. You become dependent. When you lose all that weight, you get energy you never had before, or haven’t had since your youth. These patients have so much life they start to think differently.

Dr. Jonathan Ray, Bariatric Surgeon

“Any time people lose a significant amount of weight they have a more enjoyable life that’s more complete,” he adds. “The majority of people, even after the first week, get a lot more energy. They feel so much more energetic and enthusiastic that they’re out exercising, doing the work they’re supposed to do, and doing things they used to do or always wanted to do.”

Getting to that point, however, is no picnic. “People will tell you that you’re taking the easy way out,” says Allenna, “but it’s not – it’s hard. It’s totally mind-changing, really.”

“You hear a lot of stories from people saying it doesn’t work, or ‘people gain their weight back in a couple of months.’ If they do, that’s their own fault,” says Dwayne. “It will work if you put the effort into it.”

Dr. Ray said it takes lots of support – like the kind offered by support groups at Fort Sanders Regional in Knoxville, where Dwayne and Allenna first met.

“If you are in a group with other patients who have been through this five years ago, those who have just gone through the process can ‘catch success,’” says Dr. Ray. “You’re going to groups where people have refined their ability to lose weight and are excited to maintain that way of life. You can hear their stories and say, ‘I’m going to try that.’ Or, ‘That didn’t work. Let me try this.’ You can find ways of adjusting your life that speak to you as an individual. You don’t have to re-invent success.”

If you’re interested in changing your life with bariatric surgery, attend or view the Foothills Weight Loss Surgeons Bariatric Seminar on our “Get Started” page. It’s the very 1st step in the surgery process.  Questions?  Talk with our experienced weight loss team at (865) 984-3413 today!

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Foothills Weight Loss Surgeons is part of Premier Surgical Bariatrics in Knoxville, Tennessee. Foothills Weight Loss Surgeons is affiliated with the Fort Sanders Center for Bariatric Surgery, part of Covenant Health Bariatric Services.