Traves’ story: Diabetes vanishes after bariatric surgery

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

By: Jeff Ash

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The numbers tell Traves Coppock’s story.


He once weighed 432 pounds. He now weighs 233 pounds.


He once had a size 56 waist. He now has a size 32 waist.


He once wore a 5XLT shirt, maybe a 6XLT shirt. He now wears an XL shirt.


He once had type 2 diabetes. He no longer has it.


All that happened because Coppock had bariatric surgery.


“I woke up one morning and decided I was sick of waiting around to die. I wanted to feel better,” he said.


“December 29, 2015, was the day my life changed,” says Coppock, 47, who lives in Green Bay. That was the day he started a weight-loss program in preparation for his surgery.


Two months later, Dr. Daniel T. McKenna, a bariatric surgeon with Aurora BayCare General & Vascular Surgery in Green Bay, performed a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure on Coppock.


In that procedure, the top portion of the stomach is divided and made into a small pouch. It then is connected to the small intestine. That diverts the flow of acid and bile and prevents it from refluxing, or coming back up into the esophagus. The bypass also renders the stomach pouch too small to hold large amounts of food and substantially reduces fat absorption.


“There’s really no better treatment than bariatric surgery for type 2 diabetes,” and none better than the Roux-en-Y procedure, McKenna said.


That was a revelation for Coppock, who was taking two kinds of medications for his diabetes.


“I woke up the morning after my surgery. The bad news was I’d just refilled my meds. The good news was I didn’t need them anymore at all. It was a shock. I broke down,” he said.


Three in four bariatric surgery patients who come in with type 2 diabetes will leave the hospital without it, said McKenna, who is a board-certified surgeon and fellowship trained in minimally invasive surgery.


“The rearrangement of anatomy in a diabetic after a gastric bypass accelerates how quickly their diabetes resolves. There’s some specific endocrine effect that will cause the diabetes to go into remission within 24 to 48 hours after surgery,” he said.


The surgery resolved a lifelong struggle for Coppock.


As an overweight 12-year-old from an overweight Sheboygan family, he joined Weight Watchers. He lost 70 pounds. Coppock was down to 195 pounds when he left the Army just a few years later. He couldn’t maintain his military fitness, though.


“I was a truck driver over the next 20 years, and the weight just kept piling on and piling on. Then I got hurt at work and gained 90, 95, more than 100 pounds,” he said. “I was well over 400 pounds. I had diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and chronic depression.”


Coppock knew things were bad. So did his wife, Dawn, who also has had bariatric surgery.


“It was awful. We were on the rocks, the two of us,” she said.


That was then.



Now, Dawn says, “he’s back to being the happy man he used to be. Our whole house has become a lot nicer. We’re more active. We do more things. We go more places.”


Traves agrees.


“I do enjoy life now,” he said emphatically. “I’m doing things I haven’t been able to do for 20 years.”


A hot rod enthusiast, he’s back to working on his 1952 Willys Overland pickup truck, putting a new engine in it.


Traves knows it was something he couldn’t have done without bariatric surgery.


His advice for others who are overweight: “You really need to change the way you think and the way you behave.”


McKenna agrees.


“Patients are losing weight because they’re making the right choices and living a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “The No. 1 thing is to talk to your doctor.”


Dr. Daniel T. McKenna sees patients in Green Bay, Marinette and Oshkosh. To request an appointment, call 920-288-8250 in Green Bay and Oshkosh, 877-677-5384 in Marinette and Oshkosh, or request one online.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.