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Teacher overcomes bariatric surgery failure
Corey Hale was in a dark room, filled with black light. All around him was blurred figures of people outlined in fluorescent colors. They came to him, dancing and making a great show of themselves. The room brightened and the people faded, and Hale floated around the room, looking down on himself. Unsure if this was real or not.
Hale opened his eyes and saw his family sitting around him. His mother started speaking to him. Was he back in Arkansas at his parents’ house? Were the fluorescent people a dream?
His mom told him things like “it’s been four weeks since the surgery” and “you can’t talk right now” and “you won’t be able to move.”
It took him a day to realize that he was not at home, but in the Denton Regional Hospital Intensive Care Unit. It took him even longer to realize that he’d been in a coma for a month after a suture burst inside his body, causing a condition called sepsis. He’d had bariatric surgery on Aug. 13, 2012, after his obesity, Type II Diabetes, sleep apnea and hypertension became too much for the 37-year-old.
On Aug. 24, after experiencing excruciating pain all over his body, Hale went back to the hospital for another surgery. He woke up on Sept. 17, having no idea that he’d almost died three times, or if he’d ever be able to speak and move again.
"I thrive on asking questions," Hale said. "I was trapped in this shell with my mind racing. I wanted to know if [not being able to talk] was permanent."
It’s the first day that Hale has left the hospital. His mother took him to get a haircut. They ate shrimp tacos from Fuzzy’s, and listened to Billie Holliday. He’s learned how to walk and talk again, despite his original fears, but since his transition from 445 pounds to 233, his life has completely changed.
"When you’re morbidly obese, you place limitations on yourself," Hale said. "I love to see new places and experience new things but I would never travel because whenever I flew in an airplane I’d have to buy two seats."
Now, Hale has the opportunity to do things he hasn’t done since high school. Things like propping himself up on a kitchen island and “doing some dips.” Things like hiking and being outside in the summer.
"I used to go to every movie because it was one of the only forms of entertainment I could do," Hale said. "Texas summers are hot, but when you’re carrying around an extra 200 pounds of insulation, it’s a nightmare."
Even things like eating and buying clothes are different for Hale. He used to wear XXXXXL shirts and pants. But now his old pants are twice his size.
"I still pick up XL shirts thinking, this isn’t going to fit," Hale said. "But I put it on, and sometimes it’s too big."
Hale still has minor complications. While his diabetes, sleep apnea and hypertension have disappeared, he suffers from neuropathy, a condition that causes either the loss of limbs or the loss of feeling in the limbs due to obesity. Though he no longer runs the risk of losing his limbs, sometimes Hale’s toes tingle. But he feels like the surgery was worth it.
"I have no regrets," Hale said. "Now with everything I get to do and all the ways my life has changed - I would do it again."
The biggest thing for Hale is that he finally feels like himself. He feels stronger, and he wants to get stronger. He has the energy and the drive to keep improving.
"The fat guy was never my personality," Hale said. "I never felt like the guy other people saw. But now I feel like the person you see here is probably closer to who I see myself as."