'I killed Mad Coyote Joe' 

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'I killed Mad Coyote Joe'
Gastric bypass changes life of Valley celebrity

Originally in the (AZ) Puma Press (shared here by "Fair Use" Title 17)

Mr. Joe Daigneault
Photo courtesy Joe Daignealt

Appearing at the end of his driveway draped in a prominently blue poncho and brown knit cap pulled snuggly past his ears, Joe Daigneault (pronounced Day-no) stands ready to tell his story. Taking determined but noticeably less than strong strides towards some metal porch chairs, Daigneault is eager to open up.

“It has always been food for me,” he says as he crosses his legs in the chair revealing blue and white striped overalls under the poncho. One foot dangles exposing fair skin snuggled in a black slipper.When Daigneault started cooking at the mere age of 6 he had no way of knowing the success he would encounter. But in the years to come his love of food would take him to owning a spice company, donating time to charity events and eventually to his own television show. But not all that laid ahead was to be roses for the man that would come to be known as “Mad Coyote Joe.”

Delving first into business with the Mad Coyote Spice Company, which produces various seasonings, Daigneault found his way into charity events as a means to promote himself. For example, he would volunteer at a charity auction at his church under one condition, the name Mad Coyote Joe had to be used.

After appearing for a cameo on a never aired pilot television program for ABC 15, Daigneault was later called back to attempt his own cooking show. “Sonoran Cooking” became a huge success totaling 131 episodes and an Emmy win. The Mad Coyote drew more of an audience than the news. Deals to write cookbooks followed. Life was indeed good for this native of sleepy Cave Creek, Arizona.

Despite all the fame and money that had come his way, Daigneault was becoming increasingly despondent about his size. Recalling being over weight his whole life, Daigneault says the first thing people would do to him as a youth when he had done something wrong was to call him “fat.” That grew in his mind as the years progressed to mean “I was fat, and fat was bad,” he says.

Complicating matters was his persona as the funny, heavy set guy that barbeques. “(But) I wasn’t the guy on TV,” says Daigneault, “(The) real me is a little more somber.”

On the day before Thanksgiving 2002, Daigneault’s daughter had gastric bypass surgery. By all appearances she was fine afterwards and seemed to be recovering in a normal healthy way.

Daigneault also started realizing that with each passing year he was gaining more and more weight and he did not want to end up like his grandfather. Even though his grandfather was a man that lived to be 93, the “last 15 years of his life was spent in a chair.”

At this point, Daigneault says that he began to look at gastric bypass surgery as the solution to his life-long struggle with obesity. The thought that “I can do this and not be fat anymore” kept on reappearing in the Mad Coyote’s mind.

“I didn’t take into account (that my daughter was) 19 and I was 45,” Daigneault says, now thinking back on the decision that would forever change his life.

“(Gastric bypass) is not like getting a tooth pulled or having breast enhancements.'

Daigneault went in for his own gastric bypass surgery on January 6, 2003. It was at that point “I killed Mad Coyote Joe,” he says.

Making the move to match his exterior man to who he was inside was not the smooth transition that he thought it would be. Daigneault knew almost immediately after coming out of anesthesia that something was wrong because he felt an unnatural bulge in his stomach. He felt something rip inside his abdomen and told the doctor so. But his physician said it was all right and they would check on it in a few days.

The mesh gauge that was meant to hold together Daigneault’s small intestine had torn. Since the doctors chose to wait infection set in. Another surgeon did corrective surgery to repair the damage to his small intestine. The mesh did not hold two more times after that and additional procedures were required.

On Sept. 27 Daigneault began vomiting blood and suffering intense pain in his belly. He was taken to Scottsdale’s Mayo Clinic for treatment. It was there doctors informed Daigneault that his small intestine actually flipped inside his body. While resting in the hospital waiting for it flip back Daigneault’s small intestine died.

When surgeons went in to operate, gangrene had set in. Numerous infections followed including a deadly blood disease. Daigneault’s kidneys stopped working and doctors feared for the worst. Around this time his wife and children were brought in to give their final good byes. But he again persevered and lived to tell the tale.

Most of the illnesses Daigneault has suffered since then have been caused as a result of the scar tissue, he says, rather than the original procedure. Including in the past three months he has gone into Septic shock three times.

Nowadays Daigneault takes a massive amount of painkillers that make him feel like he is dying at times. Another surgery is scheduled for June that will undo the gastric bypass by reattaching the diminutive remaining piece of his small intestine. If that works his body will be capable of naturally absorbing nutrients again. With that said however, he will still have to receive vitamin injections for the rest of his life.

“(Gastric bypass) is not like getting a tooth pulled or having breast enhancements,” Daigneault says. “They don’t tell you about the side affects.”

Recently, Daigneault was searching through his office for something when he accidentally stumbled upon an old picture of when he was full size. He held up the picture, displaying it for his wife who was nearby. Calling to mind easier times, Daigneault pointed to the old photo in which he is playing guitar in the back yard, and he asked his wife, “Remember him?”

“Yes,” she responded.

“I miss him,” Daigneault said.

“So do I,” she said, “so do I.”