DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — "I've always been kind of a bigger guy ever since I can remember and it was just getting out of hand," Eric Jourgensen said.
He was getting desperate and wrote a plea for help on his Facebook page. It sparked the idea to travel to Mexico for bariatric weight loss surgery.
"I started researching and my first visions I had going to Mexico for surgery, I am thinking, it's a warehouse, visqueen and flickering lights," he laughed.
A friend told him on that post about a hospital an a doctor in Tijuana where he could get surgery at a fraction of the cost.
"I told my wife and she instantly told me I was insane," he said. "I qualified to have the surgery for a tenth of the cost that it would have cost me out-of-pocket here in the U.S."
Jourgensen said his insurance wouldn't cover the bariatric weight loss surgery and it would have to be out-of-pocket.
"I would go through the pre-screening process, and they would run my insurance, and the insurance would always say your policy doesn't cover any weight loss procedure," he said. "I'm like, 'But the doctors are saying that I need this.'"
He was worried about his health.
"I was reaching pre-diabetic stats," Jourgensen said. "My blood pressure was going up."
He decided to go ahead with the surgery in Mexico.
"You hear of botched surgeries, but there are botched surgeries in the U.S.," Jourgensen said. "For me, it was worth the risk."
Dr. Ariel Rodriguez is a bariatric surgeon on staff at Delray Medical Center. He said this is indicative of a larger problem.
"A lot of people have really good health insurance, but they don't have bariatric coverage for example, and that kind of forces them to look for alternatives," he said.
He warns about medical tourism and doing your due diligence.
"The big difference is the quality controls," he said. "Those quality controls are expensive."
He mentioned the benefits of a comprehensive program here.
"You can go cheaper and cheaper, but the quality is not going to be there," Rodriguez said. "When everything goes as planned, then you're none the wiser, but when things go wrong, I think that's where we have an advantage."
Jourgensen said he shared his story in hopes it might help someone else.
"I don't think that people should have this stigma and fear of having the surgery at all, but they also shouldn't have the fear of going outside the country for it," he said. "But also do the research. You need to be smart when you do things."