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Katie Lee has always been a girl with a plan. Active since she was young, she played multiple sports in high school and remained “on-the-go” as she entered college. During her freshman year, she began to gain weight. While she was familiar with the typical “freshman 15,” she was not overeating or indulging excessively. The weight gain was a bit of mystery.
At the end of her freshman year, her physician diagnosed her with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age.
Common symptoms can include irregular or prolonged periods, or no periods at all. In addition, the ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs, which can make becoming pregnant difficult due to irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate.
Some of Katie’s weight gain was attributed to PCOS. Katie tried everything to lose the weight, even seeing a weight loss hypnotist. With every diet attempt, she would lose up to 20 pounds, but nothing worked long term. Each time, the weight crept back.
Life moved forward and she graduated from college and married her college sweetheart, Brad. The two dreamed of starting a family one day; however, Katie knew that her body was not healthy enough to carry a child. She began looking into weight loss surgery after talking with a friend who had gastric bypass surgery, lost the weight and kept it off.
Katie researched bariatric surgery options and decided that the gastric sleeve procedure was the best option for her. She contacted the UC Health Weight Loss Center, attended the required surgical information seminar, submitted her insurance information and worked on the necessary lifestyle changes.
“When I met Dr. Thompson, I knew that I had made the right choice,” she said. “His experience and knowledge about sleeve gastrectomy and the advanced tools which he made available to me really helped me feel confident and comfortable. The staff in the Weight Loss Center was also so nice and welcoming. I just felt really comfortable with everyone overall. I shared with them that I wanted to have the surgery in order to lose weight, but also I wanted to get pregnant and have a baby.”
Jonathan Thompson, MD, bariatric surgeon at the UC Health Weight Loss Center, performed Katie’s sleeve gastrectomy on Oct. 10, 2017. After surgery, she followed UC Health’s weight loss program guidelines, focusing solely on improving her health through positive lifestyle changes including good nutrition and exercise.
“I had a great support system – my husband, my mom and dad, my sister – everyone was there for me 100%. They all helped me stay on track,” she said.
What is Sleeve Gastrectomy?
Gastric sleeve is a minimally invasive, laparoscopic surgery where the surgeon makes tiny incisions, less than one-half inch each in the abdomen, rather than a single, large incision, like traditional surgery. It involves removing about 80% of the stomach, leaving a long banana-shaped sleeve that acts as the new, smaller stomach. One of the biggest advantages of having this surgery is that the part of the stomach where the hunger hormone is made is removed during the procedure, which helps reduce the feeling of hunger.
Katie lost 125 pounds and decreased her Body Mass Index (BMI) by 20 points. With her steady and successful weight loss, Katie and her husband were ready to have a child.
“Many patients with morbid obesity, with or without a diagnosis of PCOS, have irregular menstrual cycles,” said Dr. Thompson. “With weight loss following bariatric surgery, regular cycles and spontaneous ovulation return in a majority of patients. We do recommend that patients wait 18 months after surgery to get pregnant. This is when the most rapid weight loss happens.”
“At my two-year checkup, the Weight Loss Center team told us we could start trying to get pregnant. But I wasn’t even sure if I could have children due to the PCOS,” Katie said. “The UC Health team informed her that weight loss does improve fertility, and so she and Brad were very hopeful.
In the end, Katie’s hard work paid off and her periods became regular, and she was ovulating on schedule. On July 15, 2019, Baby Blaire entered the world surrounded by much love and adoration. After all of the planning and patience, Blaire is a true blessing to Katie and Brad.
What is the best thing about having Blaire?
“Honestly, just waking up to her every day is so wonderful,” Katie said. “I want to be a role model for her. I want to be healthy, and I want to run and play with her when she’s old enough. I don’t want to tell her that I need to sit down and take a break. I want to play soccer and basketball with her, I want to jump on a trampoline with her. I just want to be a healthy, active mom.”
Katie has a message for others who might find themselves in a similar situation.
“I want them to know that there is hope. I didn’t think any other options were left for me, but I remember the phone call telling me that my insurance was approved, and I literally just broke down and cried. And I remember telling my mom, this is possible! This is it! I can do this!”
For those who have been struggling, Katie wants her story to help others know that they can feel confident and optimistic about a healthier future.
“I, too, struggled for many years – many years! Because of this surgery, I have my life back. I’m going to be okay.”