Advocacy Born From Experience
At 405 lbs, Walter was morbidly obese. Having endured personal and professional discrimination, like so many others with this disease, he had tried and failed with every diet and exercise plan imaginable including an expensive medical fasting program. In a lecture she gave to a patient support group many years ago Kelley described morbid obesity as “a family disease.” In saying that she wasn’t talking about “fat genes” being passed from one generation to another. She was talking about how a family member’s struggle with this disease impacts the entire family, even if they are of “normal” weight. She experienced first-hand the devastation morbid obesity can create, both in the person suffering as well as the sometimes helpless feeling that can overwhelm a supportive spouse, child, parent, sibling or friend – the support person who wants so much for things to get better but who can only do so much. It hurts.
Walter’s “moment of truth” that something had to be done was very much family driven. It came when it was obvious he was extremely limited when it came to taking care of his new daughter, Marissa. Unable to do much of the physically demanding work of parenting a baby, and heartbroken that he was never able to hold her comfortably in his arms to comfort her cries because of his size, he desperately turned to weight loss surgery as a scary possible solution. Remember that back in 1993 and 1994, bariatric surgery was considered “radical” and “dangerous” and very few doctors recommended it. This was long before exploded in popularity and became more widely recognized and accepted by the health care practitioners as safe, effective and often medically necessary.
His personal struggle with morbid obesity, his battle to obtain insurance coverage for his treatment along with his extensive experience as an insurance law expert seemingly made him destined to create something which never existed before.
Like the patients LOA is honored to help, Walter’s road to insurance approval was not easy, even as an experienced trial lawyer specializing in insurance “bad faith” matters for policyholders. His first appeal letter and bariatric insurance “case” was his own, fighting to get his own approval of gastric bypass after his insurance company denied authorization. He won and had “open” gastric bypass surgery on June 30, 1994. It was and is a powerful tool which helped improve his health and quality of life. However, his continuing road to better health has not been without many bumps. He suffered a complication from his roux-en y gastric bypass called a gastro-gastric fistula which contributed greatly to regaining a lot of the weight he lost. Fortunately he was able to get his “revision” surgery in 2003 in the form LAP-BAND® “over” his gastric bypass. The combination of those two powerful operations combined with hard work and amazing support of friends and family allow Walter to be called a “successful” patient maintaining about a 175 lbs. weight loss.
While still employed with a private law practice Walter started helping several others on an ad hoc basis who were struggling with their insurance just like he had. Although it was nothing like the law practice he was involved with, these experiences of helping patients helped Walter envision a dedicated advocacy practice which knew, understood and could stand up for people like himself who needed medical care. His experience allowed him an empathy and passion to his representation that no other advocate can share with regard to obese and morbidly obese clients. His personal struggle with morbid obesity, his battle to obtain insurance coverage for his treatment along with his extensive experience as an insurance law expert seemingly made him destined to create something which never existed before.
On March 1, 1996, with his family supporting his vision, Walter established the Obesity Law and Advocacy Center, the first practice of its kind. That was the predecessor for Lindstrom Obesity Advocacy and many patients and professionals still recognize www.obesitylaw.com as synonymous with leadership in the fight for persons of size. Though the company name may have changed, he, Kelley and their team remain nationally recognized as the preeminent experts in obesity-related healthcare issues and insurance advocacy working tirelessly to assist people fighting to get the healthcare they need.