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He was on a trip with his wife and had trouble climbing, but it was just a practice run through the woods with his search dogs, but Earle “Bud” Myers knew his trouble was real.

“I was out of breath, off balance and couldn’t keep up,” says the 74-year-old dog handler and retired prosecutor. “Carrying so much weight was causing more and more difficulty.”

At 5 feet 7 inches tall and 250 pounds, Bud had other concerns, too. In 2009 he was treated for heart disease, including a procedure to open clogged arteries.

“I wasn’t going to live long at the rate I was going,” he says. “I knew weight loss could help, but that had been a real struggle.”

Bud’s 20-year history of yo-yo dieting sent him searching for a new option.

“This time I wanted lasting results,” he says.

“It’s not magic”

In early 2011, Bud attended a free weight loss surgery informational seminar at Sanford in Fargo. His positive impression of the program prompted a consultation with Dr. Luis Garcia, one of three board-certified weight loss surgeons.

“I came away with an excellent understanding of this surgery. It’s not magic,” he says. “I knew if I didn’t follow the program, over time I’d stretch my stomach again and gain weight. I had to commit to change.”

Sanford’s intensive pre-surgery program put him on the right path. He learned about food choices, portion sizes, daily vitamins, exercise and more. A nationally designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, Sanford Weight Loss Surgery Program offers important help after surgery, too, including lifelong support groups.

Minimally invasive for maximum results

Two months of preparation led to successful laparoscopic (minimally invasive) gastric bypass surgery in May 2011. Bud went home the next day and two weeks later was back to 100 percent.

“The pounds came off fast,” he says. “In no time at all I ‘undergrew’ all my clothes."

Other changes resulted, too:
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure -- and decreased medication
  • Lower blood sugar -- no more pre-diabetes
  • No more need for sleep apnea equipment

“And there’s all the daily stuff you don’t even think about like bending over to tie a shoe or going up a flight of stairs,” Bud says. “Everything that was getting to be a struggle got a whole lot easier.”

Then came the challenge he never expected.

A phone call from Jen

Several months into his weight loss, Bud got a call from his grown daughter Jen. She asked if he’d like to join her in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

“Before my weight loss, it would’ve been impossible,” he says. “I never would’ve considered it.”

But at 170 pounds, he gave it serious thought. His first step: a checkup with his cardiologist. He passed the heart exam, including a stress test, with flying colors.

In January 2012 Bud began training six days a week at Sanford Family Wellness Center. He followed a specific Mount Kilimanjaro training plan he found online, then added a twist of his own.

He dedicated the climb to Mark Loock, a lab manager at Sanford who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis last year. Bud was his hockey coach years ago in Wahpeton, N.D.

“I wanted to raise money for Mark and his family, and increase awareness of ALS. It’s a devastating disease,” he says. “This was something I could do to help.”

Inspired by Mark to push on

On August 20, Bud and Jen began their 30-mile ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro. Led by experienced guides, they trekked through rough terrain, encountering five climate changes. Altitude sickness posed the biggest danger.

“There were two times when I didn’t think I could go any further. That’s when I thought of Mark,” says Bud. “I had seen how he struggled just to get up a half-flight of stairs. I told myself these old legs are going to make it. I pushed on.”

Five days later Bud reached the summit. In subzero temperature at 19,341 feet high, he took a moment to bury a purple ALS bracelet in honor of Mark.

A changed life

Today Bud is down from the mountaintop and back home with his wife, Susan, in Fargo. After a two-week break to rest his legs, he’s back into exercising at Sanford Family Wellness and regularly working with his bloodhounds.

“Now I can easily tromp through the woods and I don’t get out of breath,” he says. “I feel great!”

Bud looks forward to his next adventure, whether it’s an assignment with his K-9 search team or another mountain climb with Jen.

“Weight doesn’t hold me back anymore,” he says, opening his iPad. He shares his photos from the trip of a lifetime.

Does weight hold you back?

Bring your dreams to Sanford Weight Loss Surgery Program and begin your journey. See what you gain when you lose!

Posted Date: November 2012