BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Christmas time is a big deal for George Gallman. He's one of Santa's special helpers, dressing up like the big man in a big red suit to help spread the Christmas spirit.
"The spirit of Christmas needs to be all year long. Be thoughtful of others because you never know what they have walked through and what they're dealing with and what they've had to deal with," said Gallman.
Gallman and Santa indeed have a lot in common. Gallman is a retired school teacher and loves helping children. He also has a snowy beard, and for years, he says he shared Santa's jolly belly. However, Gallman realized the extra weight filling out his Santa uniform was hurting his health. At 318 pounds, he says he suffered from hip, back, and knee pain, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Diets didn't work, so with his health on the line, Gallman turned to bariatric surgeon, Dr. Mark Hausmann with the Surgeons Group of Baton Rouge at Our Lady of the Lake, for gastric bypass surgery.
The surgeon explains the benefits of weight loss surgery for patients like Gallman go well beyond d ropping pounds. "The reduction of our co-morbidities, or the medical problems associated with obesity, the diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, reflux disease can be managed that way," said Hausmann.
Six months after his surgery, Gallman has d ropped 60 pounds and no longer needs medicine to manage his diabetes. However, there is one side effect he didn't quite anticipate. While getting ready to make his rounds for Santa Claus, Gallman discovered his red uniform doesn't quite fit like it used to.
Gallman's wife, Trudy, sewed his original suit. She says she doesn't mind the extra fabric. "I think it was an answered prayer and it had been a long time coming and we were just very proud," said Trudy.
Gallman says as he continues to lose weight, he'll use a pillow to keep his Santa-like figure during the holidays.
"People don't typically care for a skinny Santa, so this next season I will probably have to find a way to do some padding to my suit," laughed Gallman.