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Williston man's life back on track

Chris Williamson lost 167  pounds after havng gastric bypass at Medcenter One
Weight-loss surgery at Sanford Health in Bismarck helped Chris Williamson, right, lose 167 pounds. He stands with his wife, Charlotte.
  When Chris Williamson was 34, he was permanently disabled as a result of lung and heart disease. He took 11 prescription medications every day and spent most of his time sitting in a recliner at home. He couldn’t even walk out to his backyard or take a shower without gasping for breath.

Now, at 47,Williamson is a new man. He feels good, no longer takes any prescription medications and just started a new business in Williston. His secret? Weight-loss surgery at Sanford Health in Bismarck.

Williamson believes that scheduling an appointment at Sanford Health was one of the best choices he has ever made.

“I think it saved my life. I was a prisoner in my home. I went three months once without being able to leave the house.”

Williamson weighed 402 pounds when he sought help at Sanford Health in Bismarck. Williamson had first seen a surgeon about heart surgery to correct his atrial fibrillation. The surgeon told Williamson he was too big to fit on an operating table and gave the surgery a 50-50 chance of success even if Williamson proceeded. So, at the urging of Dr. Robert Kemp, his primary care doctor in Williston, Williamson turned to Sanford Health.

Williamson was skeptical, but he had nothing to lose—other than the weight. Since having laparoscopic weight-loss surgery in 2005, Williamson has lost 167 pounds and has
maintained that loss. He was still losing and down to 300 pounds when he returned to work, putting in 60-hour weeks in the oil field and lifting 200-pound engines.

His sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that attacked his lungs, is in total remission. At the time of his surgery, he was operating at only 60 percent of his lung capacity. The atrial fibrillation, or abnormal heart rhythms, he experienced is almost non-existent.

He recently completed a total renovation of an old, dilapidated home he and his wife, Charlotte, purchased off the auction block. He installed new windows, ripped out and replaced old walls, took a jackhammer to cement floors and completed many other tasks requiring physical strength and stamina. Then, he tackled the yard, turning an overgrown weedy lot into a landscaped paradise.

“To think one surgery did it all,” Williamson said.

He credits his improved life to the positive staff at Sanford Health. After the surgery, Williamson knew he could call upon the staff at Sanford Health to be there for him.

When Williamson first considered surgery, he saw it as a selfish act and felt bad about it being another hardship for Charlotte.

“Now, I realize it gave me my life and my family back,”Williamson said. “You become a better person for your family, and it’s not just about taking care of yourself. It’s about taking better care of your family, too.”

Chris had always been a big man. Even as a high school football player, he weighed more than 200 pounds. But in 1998, when he was diagnosed with sarcoidosis and put on a regimen of medications that included steroids, his weight spiraled upward. He gained more than 80 pounds in the first two months following his diagnosis. When he developed atrial fibrillation, which was also exacerbated by physical activity, he gained more weight. By 2000, he was medically disabled.

Five years after his surgery,Williamson left his position in the oil fields to open a new business, Premier Enterprises. He said he began the business because he saw an opportunity to provide certain necessary services to the oil field.

“It’s taken off like gangbusters, and I had to lease a building almost right away,” he said. “I’m looking forward to big things in the future.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Health’s weight-loss surgery.

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