Ups and downs mark amazing weight-loss ride

Dave Burt at 250 pounds after gastric sleeve surgerDave Burt is half the man he used to be. The Arrow Ambulance paramedic and Catlin Fire Protection District fire chief is about 30 pounds from his goal weight: 220.

A few years ago, Burt weighed 498 pounds.

“I’m a different person. At my heaviest, I felt like I was 70 years old and dying,” Burt said. “I feel like I’m 25.”

His wife Bethany Burt, a Carle physical therapist, was the voice beside Burt—and inside his head—encouraging him to keep going for his family. Their son Isaiah turns 7 tomorrow.

“Dave could have easily given up, but he has continued to fight. He has a great amount of willpower to keep going with exercise and with food choices,” Bethany said. “I’m very proud of him.”

So is his bariatric surgeon.

“Dave is a true example of what hard work, surgical support and a supportive care team—including his wife—can mean for someone with serious weight issues. Those issues are surmountable. Dave did it, and he’s doing it every day,” said Dr. Blair Rowitz, Carle surgeon specializing in bariatrics and general surgery.

Not a quick fix

After knee surgery in January 2013, Burt learned he’d need knee-replacement surgery if he didn’t lose weight. He was 40 years old.

That spring, he started choosing healthier foods and tracking what he ate, with help from Carle clinical dietician Ashley McCartney.

“We did this carefully. I wasn’t starving myself,” he said.  

And he started moving. A lot.

“At the beginning, I couldn’t walk around the block without getting winded,” he said. “By the time I had gastric sleeve surgery, I was walking three miles and riding 20 miles on my bike a day.”

Complications from a procedure he had years before, though, kept Burt in the hospital for months following the successful gastric sleeve surgery.

“People knew I went through a lot, but they didn’t know how much,” he said. “Bethany was there. She knows. If I didn’t have her support, I don’t know where I’d be today.”

Again, Dr. Rowitz agrees.

“Through it all, he was persistent. He has the heart of a champion, and Bethany and their son kept him positive. They kept him going,” said Dr. Rowitz, who is collaborating on innovative research inspired by Burt's experience.

‘A different person’

Burt has been open about his transformation, recently sharing a Facebook video featuring his highs and his lows.

“I kept reminding myself of the future,” Burt said. “I couldn’t play with my son. I needed to change that.”

Now, Isaiah and his dad do it all: baseball and soccer, Minecraft and Legos.

Plus, a life-changing trip to Disney World last spring.

“I’ve been big most of my life. I could never ride the rides,” Burt said. “I’m afraid of heights, but we rode every ride Isaiah wanted to, even the Tower of Terror.” 

Burt isn’t done shaping himself into the man he wants to be.

“I’m looking forward to getting my personal trainer certificate. I didn’t do it on my own. I had a lot of support. I had Bethany’s support,” he said. “If someone starts feeling like they can’t do it, I can help them be accountable so they keep going.

For more information

Attend a Bariatric Surgery Seminar:

  • August 24
  • September 14
  • October 19
  • December 7

Carle also offers free online seminars. Or (217) 383-3240 for an appointment. 

The Metabolic and Bariatric Surgical Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program has recognized the Carle Bariatric program as a center of excellence since 2013. Carle is one of only 23 accredited programs in Illinois and the only comprehensive center of excellence in our region.