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Taking Back His Life

December 12th, 2016

Shane Gray, 39, has always had a lot on his plate. 

He’s a youth pastor at Dutton Baptist Church in Dutton, Alabama, and is extremely passionate about his work. And as a single father of two teen daughters who is also helping raise his niece and nephew, Shane's busy schedule and list of responsibilities meant he routinely put himself – and his health – last on the priority list. 

Over time, Shane slowly gained weight. And that weight resulted in a painful and annoying hernia in his naval. He’d lived with the condition for more than six years, and had been to several doctors who basically dismissed his concerns and told him that losing weight would fix the problem. At different times, the hernia would pop out of place, and he would lay on the floor on his stomach to push it back in.

In December 2015, Shane had eaten lunch and immediately felt sick. But this was more than the usual cramping and discomfort he often felt after eating. The pain was growing more intense by the minute. He went straight to his family doctor and was told that he needed to go to the ER immediately.

“The pain I was experiencing was different than anything I’d had before, and my stomach was bulging out. The cramping was so bad, that I knew it was serious,” says Shane. “It felt like two fists were bulging out of my belly button.” 

Because of his size, several doctors felt they couldn’t operate on Shane, and he was running out of options. He had a decision to make – should he go to Birmingham or Chattanooga to seek care? After praying with his senior pastor, he felt led to go to Chattanooga. He was rushed by ambulance to CHI Memorial, a facility that was equipped to provide care for someone his size.  There he encountered Dr. Heath Giles, general surgeon at University Surgical Associates, who Shane believes is the reason he’s alive today.

“They told me that my intestines were strangulated and cut off for over 12 hours. Normally one hour is all a person can take before they might die, but there I was,” remembers Shane. “Dr. Giles immediately said he could help me.”  

Compassion and Concern Make a Difference 

Dr. Giles took time to listen to Shane and connect with him in a way the many previous doctors before hadn’t taken time to do. But he did share with Shane that the hernia repair surgery would only be a temporary fix if he didn’t make the corresponding lifestyle changes and lose the weight. 

“I’ve been told for years that I’m just fat. But I really put my life on hold to raise my daughters, and I put their needs first,” says Shane. “I used to be a kickboxing instructor and ran three miles every day. But the weight came on slowly and depression about my weight made it hard to come off.” 


Dr. Giles was very encouraging to Shane and told him, “I believe in you, and I believe you can get back to your old self.” 

“I have nothing but awesome praise for Dr. Giles and his staff who treated me with kindness, concern and care,” says Shane. “He treated me like a real person, and I’m grateful to be under his care.” 

Running the Road to Recovery 

When Dr. Giles performed surgery to correct Shane’s hernia, he weighed more than 500 pounds. Because of the seriousness of his condition and the complexity of the hernia, it took several weeks of healing before Shane could start on his path to a healthier lifestyle. In January 2016, he walked to the end of his driveway and knew it was time to go farther.

“I ended up walking 1.6 miles that day, and every day since then I’ve been walking,” says Shane. “In June, I completed my very first 5K run!”  

Since his surgery, Shane has lost more than 117 pounds, which he’s done through consistent exercise and drinking nothing but water. He knows it’s a long process to get back to his best self, but it’s a commitment he takes seriously. 

“When I look back at pictures and think about how far I’ve come, I can’t believe my own eyes. One hundred pounds makes a huge difference,” says Shane. “I know I have a long way to go, and but thanks to Dr. Giles, and the Good Lord, I’m confident I can do it.” 

Click here to learn more about Dr. Giles. For more information about general surgery or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Giles, call (423) 267-0466.



Posted by University Surgical  | Category: general surgery

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