As a man weighing nearly 500 pounds, Kelly Ray had the unlikeliest of nicknames — “Tiny.” Yet that’s what everyone called him.
During college, Tiny was an athlete at Iowa Wesleyan where he was a 240-pound defensive lineman and kicker for the football team.
But when college ended, his weight quickly increased, topping out around 500 pounds as he neared his 40th birthday.
At this weight, the former athlete said he could barely walk the length of a football field.
“I could not walk 100 yards without stopping to rest because my knees were just throbbing,” he said. “And I would be out of breath.”
All the excess weight was also putting pressure on Tiny’s knees. A doctor said both of his knees would need to be replaced before Tiny’s 50th birthday if he didn’t start dropping pounds.
In addition, the weight was affecting his sales job. He said he only had the energy to make half the calls he needed each day.
Seeking a way to get his old life back, Tiny attended a seminar for Boone Weight Loss Surgery. The seminar opened his eyes and he came out with renewed hope.
While his insurance would not cover the surgery, Tiny decided the personal investment was worth it.
“I figured I had two choices, I could either pay $13,000 for surgery or I could pay $13,000 for my funeral,” he said.
Tiny came to Boone Hospital for surgery on Oct. 28, 2008. After having a gastric band placed on his stomach, he was back at home in Shelbyville by 6 p.m. that night. Just five days later, he was back to work.
In the first two weeks after the surgery, Tiny said he lost 27 pounds. A year and a half later, the needle on the scale is still dropping — he has lost 170 pounds so far.
The weight loss has allowed him to regain his active life. He now walks three miles a day and has no problem keeping up with the demands of his job.
“It’s the smartest move I’ve ever made in my whole life,” Tiny said.
The education and support group Boone Hospital offers along with the surgery have also played a critical role in Tiny’s progress. It helped him change the way he thought about food and encourages him make better choices.
Today, Tiny feels confident as he continues to make progress toward his overall weight goal — 225 pounds.
“I’d love to be able to say that I’m half the man I used to be,” he said.