SALT LAKE CITY – FOX 13’s Big Budah is going under the knife to make a major change, a decision he says will save his life.
Big Budah has been a big part of the Good Day Utah for the last decade.
“I built my career on being the fat funny guy. My motto is fat guy with a mic,” Budah said.
But his struggle with weight loss isn’t a laughing matter. His time in the spotlight has allowed him to share his biggest struggle; losing weight. But his attempts at diet and exercise haven’t worked. Instead of losing weight, he’s gained it. Weighing in at more than 400 pounds, he’s desperate.
“I’ve done the Gold’s Gym, I’ve done the workout, I’ve done the nutrition and those things were supposed to help me,” Budah said.
He endures body aches and pains and has sleep apnea, a condition where he stops breathing throughout the night. If the sleep apnea persists, doctors say Budah could develop type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
The harshest dose of reality came when he was denied life insurance because of his weight.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I gotta lose weight, get healthy and then re-apply for life insurance to make sure that if anything happens to me that my family is taken care of,” he said.
After a lot of research, Budah is now going the surgical route. He’ll undergo a gastric sleeve surgery, a relatively new procedure where doctors will remove about 80 percent of his stomach, leave just a tube or sleeve for a stomach.
“We do it laparoscopically, so we put four or five smaller incisions in, we put tubes in that allow us to gain access to the abdomen. We put small video cameras in and then working instruments,” said Dr. Christina Richards, BMI Clinic.
Doctors say patients who undergo the procedure experience few side effects, fast recovery time and quick weight loss.
Long-term research on the non-reversible procedure is still being done, but so far the results are encouraging.
“We know diabetes can be reversed with this procedure, high blood pressure can go away,” Richards said.
Richards says that 30 percent of patients regain the weight after surgery, so patients need to eat right and exercise to help keep the weight off.
In addition to the physical challenge, Budah will have to face his cultural influences. Eating is a big part of his Samoan culture, with family gatherings centering around food…and lots of it.
“It’s part of the norm. Oh, everyone is suppose to be big and I bought into that. That Polynesians are suppose to be big,” Budah said.
But Budah will have his biggest supporters there to help him lose the weight and keep it off. His wife Jennifer, son Kinglsee, daughters Jordyn, 17, Jaelyn, 14, Kilani, 12 and youngest son Lisona, 8.
The kids see first-hand what their dad puts in to battle the weight.
“He goes to the gym and it’s hard for him to go to the gym because he’s so heavy, he tries but its still hard. He can’t get the weight off,” Jaelyn said.
They’re supporting their dad in his latest challenge and see it as a new lease on his life.
“It’s a blessing because as I leave for my mission for two years, I kinda want him to be here when I get back and I think this surgery kinda prolongs that,” Kingslee said.
“He comes from a family that does not have longevity. His dad, uncles that have all died of different types of cancer,” Jennifer said. “I told him, ‘I don’t want to be a widow at 60. You have to do this.'”
Richards says patients have to rethink everything they do and how they live their lives. They and their family will have to adapt to the new way of life, but Budah’s family is committed to keeping him on track.
“I want to walk my daughters down the aisle to get married you know. I don’t want to be in memory. Oh, my daughters getting married and then they put a slide show on. I don’t want to be a slide show. I want to be there,” Budah said.
Budah will have the surgery on Friday afternoon. FOX 13 will be there along the way to see his progress.