Transformation Stories

Tim Morgan: From Heart Attack to Marathon

Jan 03, 2017

One year ago, Tim Morgan, 50, was told his right coronary artery was 99 percent blocked — a recipe for disaster. After getting the news from his cardiologist that he was at risk of having a second heart attack (he suffered a major heart attack when he was 44), and having a fifth stent placed in his heart, Tim set out to lose weight and improve his health condition. On his own, Tim wasn’t successful.

In the spring of 2016, Tim turned to Nicholson Clinic to help him shed the extra weight and improve his heart health. In December, after losing more than 100 pounds, Tim ran in — and finished — the Dallas Marathon, a feat he never would have been able to accomplish prior to weight loss surgery.

This is Tim’s story of transformation.

What was life like before surgery?

When I hit my 40s it was difficult for me to maintain a decent weight. I wasn’t really obese but I was considered overweight at 220-225. I thought I was at a healthy weight. I went through phases of working out then stop for a while. When I was 44 I woke up in the middle the night and felt as if I had an elephant on my chest. I had all the classic symptoms of a heart attack. My wife rushed me to the emergency room and it was confirmed that I was in the middle of a major heart attack. Within two days, I had four stents placed in my heart. I had three major blockages and my “widow maker” was 98 percent blocked. I was told I was literally minutes of being dead with the heart attack. While in the hospital I was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, in addition to high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high cholesterol. My weight was up to 255 at that time. Afterwards I lost weight again down to 215-225. It was a cyclical situation.

In 2010 my wife got pregnant with our youngest, I got “pregnant” too. Within the nine months of her pregnancy, I gained about 70 pounds. I stopped watching what I was eating and stopped going to the gym. I was fat and unhappy. I stayed around the 280’s and before I knew it I was at my all time heaviest at 320. Walking was painful and I would run out of breath just doing simple things. I also developed sleep apnea. I was very uncomfortable, self conscious and depressed. Just everyday life was painful. My feet, back, knees, legs — everything hurt. I had low energy and low self-esteem. It all went hand and hand. I had heart disease, was a diabetic, had high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, low testosterone — I was very unhealthy both physically and emotionally.

Why did you decide to have surgery?

In January 2015 I had to have another angiogram due to a bad stress test result from a stress test the previous December. My cardiologist found that my right coronary artery was 99+ percent blocked and at the age of 50, stent number five was placed in my heart. I was mortified. I tried to lose weight again on my own but kept hitting a wall. The following summer I had enough and after talking to friends that have had weight loss surgery (including my wife) I made the decision to have the surgery with the gastric sleeve as my choice.

What is life like after surgery? How has it changed?

I had the gastric sleeve surgery on April 25, 2016. My life after surgery is like a new life. I can do things I never thought I could or would be able to do. My energy level is incredible, my health is great, I no longer have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, sleep apnea, low testosterone. I still have heart disease because of it hereditary nature, but I am now the healthiest I have ever been. At my last stress test, my cardiologist told me I am able do whatever I wanted to do because my heart is perfect. In addition, my self-confidence is so much better than before. I can walk without being out of breath. I can go in a store without having to lean on the cart so my legs and back don’t hurt.

What inspired you to begin running? Why do you enjoy running?

I knew if I was going to be successful with my surgery, I needed fitness goals. I didn’t set out to be a runner; I just knew I needed to move. I have a friend who had the gastric sleeve three years before I had mine and admired his discipline to run. With the influence of some other friends that encouraged me to do it, my wife and I began the journey of running. My goal was not necessarily to run a marathon but just to learn to run. After joining Lifetime Fitness in Garland, we were introduced to their run program and started running with them. I joined the 10k training June. I ran my first 5k on July 4, 2016. After completing the 10k training, we went right into marathon training. My goal was just to run a half marathon by end of November. The more I ran the more I enjoyed it. Running became my “therapy.” I enjoy it because I feel I am in control; it’s freeing to be able to run and see progress every week.

Prior to surgery, what kind of physical activity did you do?

Prior to surgery I had a difficult time doing any physical activities. Before I gained my weight I would work out periodically, bike ride but was never a runner. I wasn’t an athlete, I was an average guy trying to maintain.

Who/what is your inspiration?

My inspiration was and still is my wife, my family and my own health. I also look up to several friends that have and continue to be great encouragers. When I got to the end of the marathon and was in pain due to an inflamed IT band in my right leg, I continued to run and blocked out the pain because I knew I had to finish. I wanted to show others that it can be done. I was NOT going to quit. I overcame several obstacles in training, having the flu and being off a week, injuring my right IT band, which kept me from running the two weeks before the marathon to allow it time to heal. I was determined not to quit. A friend, who is an ultra marathoner, wanted to pace me to get me through. He was an incredible source of inspiration and encouragement for the 26.2 miles. The final inspiration was visualizing crossing the finish line for the marathon and seeing my family and friends there. When I crossed that finish line, it was truly an emotional experience. It was a journey that I never thought would be possible, especially less than eight months after my gastric sleeve surgery.

What would you like to say to someone who might be considering weight loss surgery?

Realize the surgery is a tool and not the end to a means. You have to follow the rules. Realize it is a life long decision to good health, psychological, emotional and physical. Have goals. Without goals you’re setting yourself up for failure, just make sure they are realistic. Wait…I just completed a marathon in less than eight months from my surgery…the sky is the limit go for the unreachable and charge after it. The surgery has been the best decision for myself. I have set an example to my family for good health finally. I would suggest that they do their research, find a great clinic (I highly recommend The Nicholson Clinic), ask lots of questions, get in a support group and go for it! I am a new man now as a result of mine. I truly took my life back.