Imagine having to take a daily medication for high cholesterol, another medication for acid reflux, and a combination of pills and insulin shots to manage diabetes. Imagine that in addition to battling these medical conditions, you’ve got arthritis in your knee, your feet frequently go numb, and you’re constantly exhausted.
Now imagine being told that your health is so poor, you’re facing a stroke or heart attack within the next decade — and you’re only 29 years old.
That was reality for Sabrina R., a single mother of two who spent most of her twenties struggling with her weight. After her first pregnancy, Sabrina had trouble losing the weight she’d gained — and her gestational diabetes stayed, too, eventually turning into Type 2 diabetes.
Over the next couple of years, which included a second pregnancy, her weight continued to balloon until she reached nearly 260 pounds.
“My daughter used to take my shoes off for me because I wasn’t able to bend over,” said Sabrina. “And I literally didn’t have the energy to play with my kids. It broke my heart, because I didn’t feel like I was being a true mother to them.”
Despite spending two hours at the gym, four days a week, and trying a medical weight loss program that substituted shakes for meals, Sabrina’s health problems worsened as her weight continued to climb.
Things began to look up after she met Mark Takata, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Management in Del Mar, Calif.
Since Sabrina’s previous weight loss attempts through strict diet and exercise had been unsuccessful, Dr. Takata recommended laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery — one of several surgical options for weight loss offered by the Bariatric Surgery Program at Scripps Green Hospital.
For six months prior to surgery Sabrina continued her medically supervised weight management program, including regular visits with a dietitian, in order to establish good habits early and ease into the new lifestyle that would be required of her after the procedure.
“I decided to have the gastric bypass surgery because my weight had become a matter of life and death,” said Sabrina. “I wanted to be able to give my children the childhood they deserve, while they’re still young. And I wanted to be around for them as they got older.”
On July 31, 2009, Sabrina celebrated a significant milestone — it was the one-year anniversary of her surgery, and she had lost more than 100 pounds. Perhaps more importantly, she also got rid of all her medications; she no longer has to manage diabetes, high cholesterol or acid reflux.
“I have so much energy now,” Sabrina marveled. “This year, for the first time, I took my kids to a water park. I went camping with my son, and we’ve gone hiking and jet-skiing.”
“With every patient there are three things we monitor after surgery: weight, health, and quality of life,” said Dr. Takata. “In Sabrina’s case all three have significantly improved. When I first met her, she had a BMI of 40 and was struggling with numerous health problems. One year after her surgery, she’s down to a BMI of 25 and her medical issues have all but disappeared.”
“I couldn’t have done this without the help of everyone on Dr. Takata’s team,” Sabrina said. “Everyone from the doctors to the nurses to the support staff, they all genuinely cared about me as an individual and wanted me to succeed — I wasn’t just another patient. The process wouldn’t have been nearly as easy without their support and guidance.”
Sabrina said her only regret about having weight loss surgery is that she didn’t do it sooner.
“Dr. Takata and the rest of the Center for Weight Management staff gave me a new beginning,” she said. “They gave my kids their mom back, which was the most rewarding part of this entire experience.”