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      Gastric bypass helps local family lose over 500 pounds

      The family that weighs together, stays togetherthat's what the Hoover family says. Between the three of them, they've lost a combined 500 poundsand they're still losing weight.

      Matthew Hoover can now fit both legs into one pant leg of his old jeanslast August, he was creeping towards 400 pounds.

      Diagnosed with hypothyroidism and high blood pressure, at 24, he didn't want to have the same obesity-related illnesses his parents suffered from. His father was taking insulin shots for diabetes and his mother was taking 48 pills a dayjust to survive.

      Weight loss surgery surges as obesity rates rise.

      "The weightI couldn't breathe I couldn't take a few steps without taking my rescue inhaler," Hoover said.

      The entire family decided to have gastric bypass surgery at the Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, Maryland. Michelle Hoover lost 218 pounds and credits her doctors with saving her life.

      "He had told me that he didn't think I'd live to see 50 because of the weight and I was getting sicker by the day," Michelle said.

      Following the surgery, her husband is now off all his medications.

      Gastric bypass surgery involves stapling the stomach to create a pouchno larger than a golf ball. Part of the bowel is then attached to the pouchallowing food to pass right to the intestines

      "The surgery works, but not forever. We tell people the surgery is a tool. Helps you eat less and lose weight, and learn a new lifestyle," said Dr. Jeffrey Small of the Meritus Bariatric Center.

      Dr. Small says doctors are researching families like the Hoovers to see how genetics play a role in obesity.

      "Unfortunately it's becoming a big issue for our country. We don't seem to be finding a way to stop it and slow it down," Dr. Small said.

      Insurance covered the cost of the surgeriesnow, the family is in a support group, and they work with dieticians to maintain healthy eating habits. Plus, they also exercise. This summer's vacation involved hiking.

      The surgery costs about $18,000. Though their insurance company covered it, not all do. Afterwards, there are some foods you can no longer eatand supplements have to be taken to assure you get needed vitamins and iron.