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Piscataway Man Regains Health with JFK for Life Surgical Weight Loss & Lifestyle Program

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For Juan Key, the benefits of participating in the JFK for Life Surgical Weight Loss & Lifestyle Program at JFK Medical Center go far beyond the pounds he lost to the things he gained. Among those gains, the Piscataway resident counts increased energy, an enhanced sense of self, and a new ability to engage in workouts and outdoor activities with his teenaged son.

"Now I realize that I was missing out on so much in my life," Key says of the years before March 2014, when he underwent a sleeve gastrectomy procedure performed by Alexander D. Abkin, MD, FACS, medical director of the JFK for Life program.

Key said that while his decision to have the surgery and avail himself of the program's many other services clearly was the right choice, he sought other alternatives in the months leading up to the procedure.

"I knew I had to do something, because my weight was out of control. I weighed 422 pounds, I had been developing blood clots, and I had borderline Type 2 diabetes, a disease that played a major role in both my father and aunt dying at a young age. Still, I didn't want surgery. I wanted to lose the weight myself."

And he made a valiant effort to do so. He worked out, he traded full meals for nutritional shakes, and he made other lifestyle adjustments and sacrifices that resulted in a 15-pound weight loss over the course of one month. "I realized it wasn't going to be enough, but I was still reluctant to have surgery," Key said.

So what changed his mind?

Key credits several factors, including the advice of his long-time physician, his desire to be able to do more with his son, and the encouragement and support of family members. That support included researching different weight-loss programs in the area and identifying JFK for Life as having very experienced surgeons, accreditation from the American College of Surgeons, and a wide-range of pre-operative and post-operative services, including dietary counseling, support groups and more.

Before the surgery, Key had extensive consultations with Dr. Abkin, who has performed more than 6,000 bariatric operations over the past 10 years, to discuss which procedure was best for him given his weight-loss goals and overall health. He also participated in patient-education sessions offered by the JFK for Life program, which has its main offices on JFK Medical Center's campus at 98 James St. in Edison.

"Knowing what to expect beforehand was really important, as was the guidance and help I received in working through some insurance issues," Key said.

Dr. Abkin performed the sleeve gastrectomy on March 14, 2014, and Key returned home that evening. He lost 180 pounds in subsequent months, and maintains his weight loss through engaging in workouts with his high school-aged son, playing golf, and enjoying other activities that were difficult or not feasible when he weighed more.

"Just being able to bend over and tie my shoes again was wonderful. It was something I had not been able to do for 10 years or so," Key said of one of the initial benefits of the surgery. He has built on several such small victories to embrace a philosophy that he describes as "living my life on purpose."

Key, who is active in parent-teacher groups and other organizations in the Piscataway area, adds, "I was very apprehensive about having the surgery, and I understand why many people in my position feel that way. That's why it is so important to research your options and to find highly experienced surgeons, such as Dr. Abkin, and programs that offer comprehensive services, such as JFK for Life. For example, the support group that Dr. Abkin and the program offer has been a huge factor in my success.  While I'm very grateful for everything that Dr. Abkin and the program have done for me, it's important to realize that you ultimately are responsible for whether, and how much, you benefit from these services. You have to be ready to make a change. It starts with a choice. There's no magic wand; you are given tools and opportunities, and you have to use them well."

For more information on the full range of services offered by JFK for Life Surgical Weight Loss & Lifestyle Program, visit www.jfkforlife.org or call (732) 343-7484.