Weight Loss Surgery: A Patient’s Story
For many people, losing weight is a goal that can usually be attained through simple changes to their diet and exercise routines. However, for those who are significantly overweight and/or obese, such measures aren’t always effective in reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight. Additionally, this excess weight can dramatically increase the likelihood of developing weight-related medical problems such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and many others.
For nearly two decades, Kay struggled with her weight. She tried various measures to get it under control, all without success, and increasingly found everyday activities such as walking or simply crossing her legs to be a challenge. Kay saw the impact her condition was having on her lifestyle, as well as its future implications, and made the decision to explore weight loss surgery. Here’s her journey.
Married for 25 years, with two children, Kay is a former preschool teacher who enjoys going to flea markets and being active in her church. About 20 years ago, she quit her job to care for one of her children who was experiencing a number of medical issues. The resulting stress eventually led to depression, which caused her to turn increasingly to food for comfort. “I was used to working my whole life and staying home made me feel depressed,” said Kay. “The more depressed I got, the more I ate, and I continued to gain weight. I gravitated to fast foods, sweets, salty foods, fried foods—all the stuff that was bad for me.”
A tipping point
As Kay gained weight, she also began to experience several health problems. “I had high blood pressure, severe sleep apnea, and was on the verge of developing diabetes,” she said. “I was also fatigued all the time and my joints hurt badly.” She tried going to Weight Watchers as well as taking prescribed appetite suppressant pills. “I never really was able to stick to those—it always came down to my willpower, and I just couldn’t overcome it with either of those options,” she said.
She remembers one event that was particularly distressing due to her weight. “I went to a concert—and just walking from the parking lot to my seat completely tired me out. I was so upset and frustrated by that experience that I couldn’t even enjoy the show.”
The final straw came when she learned that her son and his wife would soon be trying to have a child of their own. Kay noted, “At that point, I couldn’t even bend over and pick something off the floor without strain. When I found out I could become a grandmother in the next year or two, I realized that I couldn’t be the type of grandmother I wanted to be if I didn’t do something soon. I wanted to be the grandmother who could do everything with her grandchild.”
Kay began conducting her own research on weight loss procedures. She learned about the bariatric surgery program at Morehouse Healthcare and Dr. Shaneeta Johnson. “I attended the seminar that outlined what was involved in the procedure and it was very informative. I knew right then that was what I wanted to do.”
The pre-surgery process
Before she could be approved for surgery, Kay knew that she had to begin losing weight well in advance of the procedure. She saw a nutritionist who helped outline an eating plan that enabled her to lose nearly 30 pounds. “I started on a diet that included more protein and included eggs, chicken, and lean meats,” she said. “I also had to keep watch of my calorie, fat, and carbohydrate intake. Plus, I drank more water and started walking. Two weeks before the surgery, I went on a liquid diet, which included broth, sugar-free Jell-O and pudding, and protein shakes.
“I learned that Dr. Johnson would be performing a sleeve gastrectomy on me, which involved removing a portion of my stomach. On the day of the surgery—January 17, 2017— I was nervous but excited. I just knew that as long as I did what I was supposed to do leading up to this day, I was going to get through it fine.
“As I was being prepared for the surgery, Dr. Johnson came in and talked to me and to my family. I really trusted her. So Dr. Johnson performed the sleeve procedure and also did some hernia repair as well.
“After the surgery—I’ll be honest—I was in a lot of pain. However, this was due mainly to the presence of gas in my body that was left over from the procedure. Dr. Johnson and the nurses emphasized to me the importance of getting up and walking as soon as possible to dissipate the gas. Sure enough, once I started walking, I felt dramatically less pain and was able to go home that night.”
Since her surgery, Kay’s life has been transformed. “It exceeded my expectations.
Overall, I’ve lost 120 pounds. It’s like a dream.” She adds, “I have some limitations
on what and how much I can eat, and how soon before and after each meal I can drink.
I stay away from bread, rice, pasta, soda, and sweets. It’s changed a lot of things.
But it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.”
There were additional benefits beyond weight loss. “Now I am completely healthy,” Kay said. “I’ve never been this healthy in my life, ever. I don’t have any issues, whereas before I had issues every day. Plus, I used to be embarrassed to be around anybody. I didn’t feel comfortable going out and couldn’t physically do even the simplest things people take for granted every day. Now I can do anything. I feel comfortable seeing my friends and I have more confidence. I can reach down and pick up anything. I can cross my legs!”
She is now eagerly awaiting the arrival of her grandchild in April. Kay says, “I wish I hadn’t waited so long to have the surgery. But it was so worth it. I truly believe that the surgery saved my life in so many ways.”