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Susan, 48, of Prince Frederick, Md., spent the last 25 years morbidly obese, reaching 360 pounds. After gastric sleeve surgery in March 2014 and excess skin removal 18 months later, she's now at 170 pounds and still losing. But gaining so much more. "I don't hide anymore," she says. "I'm not depressed. I can spend time with the five grandchildren I just inherited when my son got married."
Susan says she was a closet eater as a child, hiding food under her bed, but was never overweight. Once she became pregnant in her 20s, everything changed. "I gained 150 pounds with my first son," she says, and another 60 pounds with her second.
Sleep apnea and high blood pressure followed, as did depression. "I was so ashamed," she recalls. "If I needed to go shopping, I waited in the car until no one was standing in front of the store, so I could slip in without being seen."
Two things gave Susan the will to turn her life around. First, she needed knee replacements because of the arthritis, but the surgeon refused until she lost weight. And, her mother-in-law's reply to Susan, when Susan offered to help with her declining health, was "How can you take care of me, when you can't take care of yourself?" Susan says, "I knew I had to do something."
The pivotal moment: "I was sitting in my car in the grocery store parking lot," she recalls, "and I heard a radio ad for bariatric surgery. I said to myself â€˜I have to call right now or I won't do it.'" From her car, she made the appointment with MedStar Washington Hospital Center's bariatric surgery program.
At the bariatric surgery orientation, Susan learned she'd need to lose some weight first, attend nutrition classes and undergo diagnostic tests. Her husband and sons were very supportive. Five months later, in March 2014, having dropped about 90 pounds after following the program's diet, Timothy Shope, MD, performed gastric sleeve surgery, a minimally invasive procedure that reduces the size of the stomach.
After surgery, she lost another 100 pounds. But excess skin was a problem.
"I was hoping that five nights a week at the gym would allow me to avoid plastic surgery," she says. "But I didn't like what I saw.
Praful Ramineni, MD, a Hospital Center body contouring plastic surgeon, said Susan was a great candidate for surgery. She had to wait another six months to ensure her weight had stabilized before he removed excess skin from her belly, arms, back and thighs. Two months later, her scars are fading. "I am so happy," she says. "On vacation, I got the first tan ever on my stomach! But the best part? I can do things with my family. Now I can go to my grandchildren's football games, instead of hiding. I've even been horseback riding with my niece."
Susan's advice to others: "If you are considering surgery, please do it. My whole life is evolving in a good way. My relationships, my mental health, everything."
Considering weight-loss surgery? There are several options to help you learn more: