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Worship leader sings a healthier tune after bariatric surgery

Did you know that music ministers face many physical demands during a worship service?

If you have ever exercised the major muscles in your core, you know how strong muscles can help you stand up straight, stay focused and support your singing voice with energy and volume.

Worship leader Terrill White, who at his heaviest weighed 390 pounds, had a difficult time walking up a few stairs, announcing the next hymn in a strong voice, and raising his arm to lead the singing at his church.

“I had severe congestive heart failure then, so my heart function was severely limited,” said the 45-year-old resident of Muskogee. “I had a hard time breathing and moving around, feeling like the wind was getting sucked out of me. Sometimes I couldn’t make it through the entire service.”

When he was not leading worship services at Community Gospel Center in Fort Gibson, White worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a veterans’ service representative rater for compensation.

“I would try to exercise,” he said. “I used to walk five to six miles a day, but when I was at my heaviest, I could hardly walk around the block. It was exhausting when I tried to play with our three children. My wife, Christie is the children’s pastor and I went to church camp with her one summer. I had such a hard time walking from our dorm to the Worship Center!”

White’s excessive weight and mobility difficulties led him to The Center for Bariatrics at Bailey Medical Center and conversations with Dr. Brandon Varnell.

Preparing for surgery

“Dr. Varnell prepared me for surgery by explaining everything and with a thorough assessment beforehand,” recalled White.

“A few years ago, I had severe health issues that caused me to lose more than half of my colon. I was very worried about how this surgery would work as a result. Dr. Varnell made sure that I had all my exams and everything was approved to minimize any risks,” White said.

In addition to those preparations, White went on a liquid diet for two weeks before the surgery.

“Those two weeks were pretty difficult,” he said. “What surprised me were all the doctor appointments. I know they were needed to prepare me for the surgery and afterward. With that liquid diet, I lost a total of 60 pounds before the surgery.” gastrectomy

The laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, often called the "sleeve," is performed by removing approximately 80% of the stomach. The remaining stomach is the size and shape of a banana. This new, smaller stomach holds less food, thus reducing the amount of food (and calories) that is consumed.

By removing the portion of the stomach that produces most of the "hunger hormone," the surgery also influences the metabolism. It decreases hunger, increases feeling full and allows the body to reach and maintain a healthy weight as well as control blood sugar.

Read more about a sleeve gastrectomy and watch a video that details what happens during the surgery.

Though he did have to make serious adjustments to his diet, White experienced no complications during or after the surgery.

“Since I was pre-diabetic before the surgery, I have completely cut out carbonated soft drinks,” said White. “I have also stopped eating any kind of bread and sugar, even though they said I can only have moderate amounts. This was a lifestyle adjustment I was willing to make in order to lose the weight and keep it off.”

Living a healthy lifestyle

To get into shape after surgery, White bought a Peloton stationary exercise bike.

“I am now down to 232 pounds and am much more active in general,” he said. “I work out on the bike many times a week. I am also doing a lot of walking and playing more with our kids.”

His leaner self is even producing better results at church. “In addition to singing and leading the worship, I also play the piano,” said White. “Instead of sitting at the piano, I can now stand and play the piano, even for more than an hour during some of our longer services. That’s something I could not have done last year.”

But the “new Terrill White” really shows up on family trips to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

“We’ve had season passes to the amusement park for a couple of seasons, but since I was so heavy, I wasn’t able to fit in the seats and ride the rides,” recalls White. “Now I can ride them with my kids and even encourage them to get on the big rides like Thunderation. It means a lot to me to now ride these rides with them.”

White acknowledges that his new lifestyle is the result of hard work and excellent teaching and encouragement.

“From the beginning, I appreciated the team at the Bariatric Center and their honesty,” said White. “They didn’t sugarcoat anything. They told me upfront that it was not going to be easy but it would be worth it. You can tell that their mission is to help people make a change of lifestyle and be healthier.”

Contrary to what some people think, changing your lifestyle is not an easy thing to do. “A lot of people have told me that I cheated and went the easy route,” said White. “But this has not been an easy route for me. I’ve had to work at it.”

“I wish I had done the surgery earlier because I honestly believe that I am just now beginning to really live my best life.”

For more information on our bariatric services, call 918-376-8410 or click here.