makes a big difference in teenager’s life
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Jonathan Miller, 17, is like a lot of teens.
He’s looking forward to the Junior Prom with others from Eustace
High School. He feels he can do just about anything. He’s
passionate about his interests (in his case, car racing), and
he’s carrying a very heavy course load at school. But chances
are if you met Jonathan a year ago, you wouldn’t have noticed
any of these things. All you would have seen was his weight.
Last February, Jonathan, nicknamed “Tiny,” weighed 450 pounds.
This Feb. 28, he weighed 250 pounds and likely by the end of the
year, he’ll hit his goal of 200.
Now, before he puts anything in his mouth Jonathan always asks
himself, “Is this good for me?” It’s just part of the many
changes he has undergone. His mother, Misty, sees the emerging
man in her son’s newly applied self-discipline. And his new
confident self-image makes her smile with pride. “He’s a totally
different person, so outspoken and ready to conquer the world,”
Two years ago, Jonathan had shrunk into a self-imposed prison,
seldom leaving the house (except for school), traded in baseball
and basketball for video games and resisted the insistence of
his father to join in family outings. Except for going to the
racetrack, where Jonathan enjoyed driving at the 85 Speedway in
Ennis, Jonathan kept to himself.
Then his doctor recommended him to the Texas Children’s Hospital
in Houston for bariatric surgery. The hospital’s Center for
Comprehensive Surgical Management of Adolescent Obesity takes a
team approach in treating adolescents and their families. They
employ a number of medical disciplines to treat the whole person
as an individual.
Over a nine-month period, Jonathan and his family were able to
meet certain stringent criteria and were admitted for
laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass.
The procedure is known for its reliable results and success at
achieving long-lasting weight loss.
Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston is one of the few centers
in the country offering this service to teens since 2004.
A cornerstone of the program is the hospital’s commitment to 10
years of patient follow-up that includes nutritional and
But qualifying for the surgery was no picnic! And if you were to
ask Jonathan for his recommendation of the procedure, even up to
six months after he had his surgery, he would have said, “don’t
“The first two months were the hardest of my whole existence,”
he told The Monitor. “It’s definitely not the easy way out,” his
Right after the surgery and up to three weeks afterwards,
Jonathan said the pain was bad. “It felt like Mike Tyson punched
me a bunch in my gut,” he said.
The fourth week, he still wasn’t allowed to go home, but had to
remain near the hospital to keep appointments with doctors.
The hardest part of all, was not eating. Jonathan was only
allowed to drink water, (64 ounces a day), and sugar-free
Gatorade© for the better part of two months. His first solid
food consisted of “soupy mashed potatoes.”
It was hard on the whole family. His mom and dad didn’t want to
eat anything in front of him. They couldn’t bear going out for a
meal, because Jonathan wouldn’t be allowed to eat any of it. The
drastic change in eating habits was a constant source of stress.
“Sometimes, I got to think I’ll never be able to eat, anything,”
he said of his lowest moments.
The surgery reduced his stomach to a small pouch. From now on,
Jonathan can not eat more than 6 grams of sugar (or
carbohydrates) at one time. “You just don’t realize how much
sugar is in everything we eat, until you can’t anymore,” Misty
said. The consequences of going over that amount results in
immediate rejection of the thing eaten. “It comes right back
out, one way or another,” Misty said. Jonathan learned pretty
quick how to read labels to avoid the penalty of taking in too
much at one time.
Because his stomach is so small, he gets none of his calories
from what he drinks but carries around a water bottle to slowly
take in a gallon of water a day. He also has to eat a few bites
throughout the day and he takes a handful of vitamins throughout
the day as well. He’s still trying to get used to taking
Where before he could eat an entire pizza by himself, now he can
barely get down one skinny slice. He also can’t stomach very
much fat. All his milk products are now nonfat or low fat. And
after six months, he started to see the results of taking in
1,000 calories or less a day. What he misses most is a glass of
chocolate milk, he said. But it’s worth it, he added.
Jonathan remembers buying his first pair of American Eagle
Jeans, size 42. “I like to look good,” he said.
His view of himself still lags behind his success at weight
loss. Regular exercise at the Cain Center gym three times a
week, working out has also helped him fit better into his skin.
Both he and his dad work out there.
As an inducement to stay on the program, Jonathan’s dad, J.R.,
asked him to pick out a shirt he wanted while at the Monster
Truck Rally last year. At the time, Jonathan had dropped one
whole shirt size to a 5Xtra large. Dad paid $25 for the shirt he
wanted but got it in an XL size. “I was so mad,” Jonathan said.
“I’ll never be able to wear that,” he told his dad. “Yes, you
will,” his dad assured him. “That shirt hung in my closet for
nine months, haunting me,” Jonathan said. Then he tried it on,
and it was “tight, but I could get it on,” he said.
This year, he wore that shirt to the Monster Truck Rally and it
fit him just right!
Jonathan told The Monitor the last time he weighed 250 he was
probably 7 years old. “I was always active in sports,” he said.
Dad found him a baseball and basketball coach who made Jonathan
a part of their teams. He was always too heavy for peewee
football, so couldn’t play that sport. And by the time he was
old enough to play on school sports teams, he couldn’t meet the
From second grade to the sixth grade, Jonathan said he was
bullied daily. Everywhere he went he heard the disparaging
remarks made about him whenever others saw him. By middle
school, the bullying and the discouragement got so bad he
thought about killing himself, he said.
Jonathan said, remembering those times and thinking about his
future is what motivated him to have the surgery and to see it
through. He remembers “how I didn’t stick up for myself and how
I never want that again. And all that I want to be and things
I’m missing out on, including girls, and being able to do all
the things I want to do. And once in the program, I didn’t want
to fail,” he said.
So, he takes his vitamins and perseveres with his new regiment
under a heavy course load and keeps all his doctor appointments
When he gets discouraged, he just thinks about his next race or
race car design he’s working on and that seems to remove the
stress he has around eating. “I can’t not eat,” he acknowledges.
The racing season is set to start next Friday. From now on
through the end of the season, he and his dad will be at the
Thanks to the surgery, his own resolve and the support of his
family and true friends, Jonathan is ready to “start his engine
on the road of life.”