Luke MacLeod interviewing 1964 Olympic gold medal winner Billy Mills

Luke MacLeod interviewing 1964 Olympic gold medal winner Billy Mills

While it isn’t the most common solution, weight-loss surgery can be a valid choice for people who are morbidly obese, particularly when the health dangers outweigh the surgical risks.

This was the case for Luke Macleod, who, up until just over a year ago, weighed almost 500 pounds.

“It was over the last 20 years that I really started putting on weight. Before that I was quite active,” said MacLeod, who works at the James Bay Cree Communication Society.

But it was a major change in lifestyle, swapping out physical labour for office work, giving up his walks around the community for riding around in a new pick-up truck while continuing to eat large meals that led to a massive weight gain over a 20-year period.

“It was starting to get difficult to move around, especially with getting up the stairs. At one point the doctors became concerned about my heart and I was told that this was because of my weight,” said MacLeod.

He was also diagnosed as diabetic and prescribed blood-sugar medication.

These factors led MacLeod’s decision to pay out of pocket for a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. In this procedure, a surgeon removes a large portion of the stomach so that the amount of food a patient can ingest is limited and the patient also feels much fuller after eating a smaller meal portion.

The surgery cost $18,000 but MacLeod said it was a good investment. Waiting lists for this surgery in the public healthcare system can last two years or more.

To prepare for this surgery, MacLeod said he went on a medically supervised liquid diet, in which he drank a powdered shake preparation in lieu of regular meals for a few months to help the weight-loss process.

MacLeod also said he opted for the private clinic route because he said that the surgery was easier to recover from.

“They didn’t have to open up the entire stomach, it was laparoscopic and so they did four or five small incisions and I was up and walking around just a few hours after having this kind of surgery.”

He was released from the clinic only two days later to finish his recovery at home.

MacLeod said the surgery and the price tag was worth it as he would have eventually faced greater loss of mobility that may have led to a bedridden existence.

Another motivation to renew activities like fishing and hunting, and to pass on that traditional knowledge to his grandchildren.

MacLeod said that he now has to watch his portions diligently. Overeating could burst his sleeve and land him back in the hospital. He also has to watch the type of food he eats as fatty meats like goose or bear no longer agree with him.

Just over a year later, MacLeod said that he is now down over 80 pounds and no longer has to take medication, including his diabetes medication.

At the same time, he said that weight loss is a very slow process and he has a long way to go toward his weight-loss goals. Once he is further along in this journey, MacLeod will return to the private clinic for another surgery to remove loose skin.

MacLeod is very grateful for the support he received from loved ones and the local clinic staff in Mistissini.

For more information on private weight-loss surgery: