Patient Stories

A Story of Resilience and Transformation: Sleeve Gastrectomy Success

Jan. 9, 2024

Tara was once a high school and college athlete who never had to think twice about staying active and fit. However, as time went on, she found herself trapped, which eventually led her to make a life-changing decision and utilize the UC Health Weight Loss Center.

Tara's journey to weight loss was more than just a physical transformation; it was a path to self-discovery and renewed strength.

Tara's life took a different turn as she became deeply entangled in various responsibilities, focusing most of her energy on caring for her children, alone.

Sixteen years ago, pregnant with her daughter and on bed rest, Tara faced significant challenges. "When my daughter was just one month old, I packed our clothes and left home," Tara shared. "My kids never knew the truth of my struggles and the weight I carried knowing that caused me to gain weight myself."

Tara experienced substantial weight gain, adding 60 pounds during bedrest and an additional 130 pounds over the next 12 years, a common challenge before undergoing bariatric surgery.

Living for her children became her purpose. If it weren't for living for her children, Tara wouldn't know where she would be today.

Tara reached a breaking point one day in February and it was on that day that she called the UC Health Weight Loss Center. "In that moment, everything clicked," Tara shared. Tara shared with her kids the truth, explaining that "the truth was a weight outside my health I couldn't bear."

"When I came to the Weight Loss Center to begin this journey, I was at my lowest, mentally," she said. Depressed and overwhelmed, Tara didn't know if she wanted to fight or flee. But she knew that her children couldn't afford to lose her.

Tara's weight at the initial appointment on February 21 was 340 pounds.

When Tara contemplated the idea of weight loss surgery, her motivation was crystal clear. It wasn't about vanity; it was about her well-being and her children's future. Tara's story was complex, but at its core, it was a mother's unwavering love for her family. "I now had three kids who needed me, but I didn't know who I was. I just knew I had to fight," she said.

And Tara fought with the support and encouragement of friends. Bobby Johnson, III, MD, UC Health bariatric surgeon, performed weight loss surgery on three of Tara's friends, "so he came highly recommended."

"It is not unusual for patients to tell us they learned about our program from a family member or friend," Dr. Johnson explained. "When we talk about bariatric surgery, we emphasize its use as a tool and work with patients to create individualized plans for sustained long-term weight loss. At UC we are fortunate to have an experienced multi-disciplinary team of obesity experts to provide support before and after surgery." 

The Decision to Pursue Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Tara's decision to opt for the gastric sleeve was influenced by extensive research and consultations. The gastric sleeve, known for its effectiveness and fewer complications compared to other bariatric procedures, appeared to be the most suitable option for her unique health profile and weight loss goals.

Fast forward nine months to December 10 and it was surgery day with Dr. Johnson at UC Health's West Chester Hospital. "There was no turning back now," Tara explained. Tara had undergone gastric sleeve surgery, a minimally invasive, laparoscopic procedure that involved removing about 80 percent of her stomach, leaving a long banana-shaped sleeve as her new, smaller stomach. This surgery, known as sleeve gastrectomy, was the newest and fastest-growing surgical option for weight loss, offering remarkable results with tiny incisions in the abdomen. This gastric sleeve operation was a turning point in her life and crucial to her weight loss journey.

After the surgery, Tara found herself feeling full on much smaller amounts of food, which drastically reduced her consumption and helped her lose weight. With the support of the Weight Loss Center's team, including a multidisciplinary team of doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, and more, as well as dedicated patient advocates, Tara achieved excellent results. The journey of weight loss surgery is not just about the operation day. It is a lifelong commitment to a new lifestyle. Tara understood that the surgery was a tool, but the real change would come from her dedication to weight management a healthy lifestyle changes post-surgery.

"I had this tool, but the rest was up to me," shared Tara. "I knew I had to listen to the doctors and educate myself on nutrition and exercise." Tara is still learning and still pushing every day.

The Weight Loss Center empowered Tara to reach and maintain a healthy weight by customizing a holistic plan for her body, mind and spirit. They offered support at every step. Tara's journey inspired her to become a certified nutrition coach, giving her the tools to help others on their path to better health.

Lowering the Risk of Diabetes and other Complications of Obesity

A significant concern for Tara, as for many undergoing bariatric surgery, was her risk of diabetes. The condition, often exacerbated by obesity, was something Tara hoped to manage better post-surgery. Her doctors at UC Health were optimistic that the weight loss could lead to improved diabetes control. In addition to many of other health issues like high cholesterol, blood pressure, the bariatric procedure removes a significant roadblock for many who just need the extra push to get started with an already arduous lifestyle change.

"Tara is off all of her medications, including those for diabetes, and no longer needs continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to help her sleep," explained Heather Waugh, CNP. After surgery, the UC Health Weight Loss Center continues to check blood work results to make sure patients like Tara are getting the vitamins and nutrients they need, as well as check A1C, one's average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. "Tara is doing a fantastic job – she is down 50% of her body weight since surgery."

Two years after surgery, Tara is down to 157 pounds and loves all the life she has gained.

"We see so many women like Tara that put their families first and lose sight of themselves," shared Heather. "It is hard for a mother to say I am going to take this time for me to get healthy and stay healthy.  But when they do, they are happier with themselves and become an even stronger support to their children and family."

Tara ran her first 5K race this Veterans Day. She also ran her first 10K on Thanksgiving Day, the same day two years ago she began prepping for weight loss surgery.

Tara's story was not just about physical transformation but about finding her inner strength and embracing a healthier, happier life. "I put myself first and never miss a workout - some days even two," she says. "But I'm a better mom, friend and daughter now than ever before. I don't just exist. I'm present and that's something I will never give up. Ever. Again."

Tara has proven that with determination, support, and a comprehensive program, anyone can overcome the challenges of obesity and enjoy the rewards of better health and well-being.

West Chester Hospital achieved accreditation from the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program as a Comprehensive Center with Obesity.  MBSAQIP® is a joint Quality Program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).

Weight Loss Center
Practices: General Surgery , Surgical Weight Loss