Published: Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Many students on Warrington campus know Wallace Carter Jr. is not a person you can easily lose in a crowd with a height of 6’ 9” and a police uniform. But those who knew him a year ago wouldn’t recognize him now, because he has lost over 216 pounds from gastric by-pass surgery.
Gaining weight, health troubles
Carter was born in Hawaii and moved with his family to Pensacola because his dad was in the Navy in 1974.
“Since I was 15, I’ve never left the area once,” Carter said.
When he graduated high school in 1989 Junior weighed 300 pounds, which didn’t seem too bad for his height. He worked at Sam’s Club pushing shopping carts for a year and lost 25-30 pounds.
However, when Carter entered the police force as a prison guard, he found out his job was more sedentary than he expected and soon weighed 425 pounds.
When he came to PJC, at first his job was more strenuous on the Pensacola campus. He walked around most of the campus and was able to lose almost 30 pounds. Later, he was moved to the night shift, which involved sitting in one of the marked cars. Over the 8 years he’s worked at PJC, Carter gained almost 75 pounds.
Three years ago, Carter began having trouble sleeping and was diagnosed with sleep apnea, a condition that causes a sleeper to stop breathing.
“I didn’t occasionally stop breathing,” he explained. In fact, he stopped breathing 28 times in one night. He also had high cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides. His oxygen saturation level was 73, and a normal saturation is usually between 95 and 100.
“I was beginning to have a hard time just getting out of bed,” he said.
Still, Carter justified his weight as suitable for his tall height.
Carter calls himself a colossal nerd and attends comic conventions like Dragon-Con. Unfortunately, there weren’t that many costume options for his size until he found a well known villain of Marvel Comics, the King Pin.
“I was dead on. I was the King Pin,” he said.
He was so dead on at being King Pin that an independent film maker offered him a role in a fan movie. Then Carter was recognized by everyone at conventions. He signed autographs and posed for photographs.
“I didn’t want to lose the weight,” he said, realizing that losing weight would mean losing King Pin.
However, with his medical condition and his career as a police officer, he said, “I knew I needed to lose the weight to be a better police officer, to be a better uncle to my nephew.”
Living with the weight became a struggle, especially in performing daily routines.
“It would take 45 minutes to get dressed,” Carter said.
He explained that after putting on each piece of clothing he would need a cool-down period. He would sweat profusely while putting on his uniform. The worst part was putting on boots — he would pull the cuff of his pants just to get his leg up.
Diets, considering gastric by-pass surgery
For almost 10 years, Carter couldn’t step on a scale — his weight was too high to calibrate.
Considering gastric by-pass was a struggle, and he tried diets, like Atkins, which really made him “eat a deep fried pillow.”
“I’m not that fat; I can lose the weight on my own,” he said.
Unfortunately, Carter would lose some weight and gain more back.
Researching the success, failure, benefits and risks of the gastric by-pass procedure made him reconsider doing it.
Finally, Carter decided, “I gotta do this or I’m going to die.”
Carter went to Sacred Heart Hospital for the procedure, but not before going through multiple hoops such as a psych profile and some weight loss. He didn’t tell his doctors about the conventions or being King Pin, “They’d think I was nutzo.”
On Oct. 9, 2007, after being on a liquid diet for two weeks, Carter went in for his surgery.
“I was so scared,” he said. “I actually thought I was going into that hospital and I wasn’t coming out.”
Carter even sat up his living will and told his friends what they could have, should anything go wrong with the surgery.
When telling his doctors of his fears of the surgery, his doctor said to him, “’If you weren’t scared out of your mind, then you’re not doing it for the right reason.’”
At first, Carter didn’t understand what his doctor meant.
His doctor explained that since Carter was doing the surgery to save his life, not for vanity, then it was for the right reason.
“People think that this surgery is an easy way out. I’ll tell you I had an easier time doing a number of other things in my life than this surgery.”
Although the surgery was done microscopically, he has five slits across his stomach and had indescribable pain after the operation.
600% life improvement after surgery
A year after his surgery, Carter has found what he says is a 600% improvement to his life. He has now lost 216 pounds and has gone from a 6X size t-shirt to a 2X and 58 waist to 42.
“That’s not water weight,” Carter joked.
When asked if he missed being the right size for King Pin, he said, “I look at those pictures and think, ‘That was pretty cool…’ I don’t miss it because my health benefits are worth more to me than fame and movie notoriety.”
With his new-found abilities such as running, he now takes the stairs, two at a time even, and hasn’t stepped on an elevator since.
“The surgery didn’t cure me from wanting to eat,” Carter explained. “It created a control on my psychological need to eat.”
The surgery made a 2 ounce pouch of his stomach and at first after the surgery he could only eat that much food. Now he’s up to 6-8 ounces at a time.
“I can eat food; I can eat just about anything I want to,” he said. The difference is, now, “instead of craving an entire pizza, I crave a taste of pizza.”
Carter is required to take multi-vitamins and calcium bicarbonate because his stomach can no longer absorb enough from the amount of food he eats. He is also required to eat about 100 grams (the average daily intake is 45 grams) of protein a day, because he absorbs only half the protein.
Now that he practically has lost the weight equivalent to that of a grown man, Carter is now looking towards opportunities for his future. He’s now seeking additional training within law enforcement, as well as getting his degree for education in hopes of teaching history in high schools.
Carter said the surgery, “gave me the confidence to put myself out there and be successful.”
For those of you considering gastric by-pass, Carter strongly recommends that you do your own research about it. But as for him, he said, “It’s the best decision I ever made, and I don’t regret a moment.”