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Unity Hospital

I literally have my life back

Ernie Eichberg before and after photo

"I feel as though thirty years were added back on to my life," Ernie Eichberg of Laporte, MN, said when describing his journey after weight loss surgery. At 248 pounds, he recalled being tired all the time. "I lacked the energy to do the things I needed to do, and to enjoy the things that always brought me joy. I stopped hunting, fishing and being active out in the woods." Having lived a lifetime as an avid outdoorsman, Ernie's life had drastically changed. "It wasn't just the physical reasons I stopped doing the things I loved. That was part of it, of course. I was always out of breath and tired, but just as debilitating was the emotional toll it took. I had really lost my motivation to want to do the things I loved."

Change was needed. Ernie took the advice of two friends who also underwent surgery at the Unity Hospital Bariatric Center and sought out more information. He and his wife attended an introduction to weight loss surgery class at Unity Hospital. "I knew I had to do something," Ernie said. "At 50 years old, I wanted to be around to enjoy my grandkids. I had obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension, hypercholesterol and diabetes. At the rate I was headed, I wasn't sure I would be around to see them grow up.

Ernie's weight loss journey

Ernie attended the class and met with nurse clinician, Sandy, as he started his journey. "Sandy really brought a positive attitude to my experience. She was always there for encouragement and helped me get through the steps I needed before surgery." Ernie also spoke highly of his surgeon, Dr. Jeff Baker. "Dr. Baker was fantastic. Both my wife and I were so impressed with his bedside manner. He answered our questions and explained the process to us before, during and after surgery. He was really patient, and he is a great doctor."

After researching all three surgical procedures, Ernie decided the vertical sleeve procedure was the right fit for him. "It seemed that this procedure least altered the inlet and the outlet of the body," he said. "I also liked the fact that it allowed for more rapid weight loss."

After weight loss surgery

Ernie used the tool well and has since lost 84 pounds. His diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and sleep apnea have since resolved. "What people don't realize is that the changes are not just physical. You have to understand that your mind can play tricks on you." Post-surgery, Ernie said he struggled with not being able to eat the way he once did. "You have to just know that your eating habits will change, and you have to understand your limits. And I'll tell you one thing, you don't want to sit home and watch the food channel. That's depressing!" Not watching TV is really okay with Ernie these days. He is back in the woods doing the things he loves. He can now chop wood for hours and has more energy than he has had in years. "I literally have my life back," he said. "It brings tears to my eyes to even talk about it. It has been such a gift."