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Weight-reduction Surgery Gave Laquitha a New Outlook on Life

Laquitha is half the person she used to be—literally—after undergoing life-transforming surgery at Columbia St. Mary’s.

At her peak, Laquitha carried 280 pounds on her 5’6” frame and wore size 22 clothes. Today, 15 months after undergoing gastric bypass surgery, she weighs 142 pounds and wears a size six.

Laquitha, who lives in Milwaukee, has worked for Columbia St. Mary’s for the past eight years. She currently works as a Compensation Analyst in the Human Resources department, which is where she first learned about the Bariatric Center.

“Weight became a problem for me when I went away to college,” Laquitha said. “I wasn’t cooking and had developed poor eating habits, including eating a lot of fast food.” In August 1998, she married her husband and put on more weight when she became pregnant.

As time passed, her weight continued to climb. “I was dieting all the time and had tried every kind of diet,” she said. “I would lose weight, but it would always come back.”

For Laquitha, obesity meant denial—to herself and others. “Being heavy kept me in the house,” she said. “I was 25 years old with a 5-year-old son, and I was tired of being housebound. I wanted to be a better mom; I couldn’t even sit on the floor to color with him.” Laquitha said she also wanted to go on the road with her husband, a musician, but felt embarrassed about her weight. And she simply wanted to have fun just “hanging out” with her best friend.

Laquitha made an appointment at the Bariatric Center at Columbia St. Mary’s. Before being considered for surgery, she was evaluated by a surgeon to determine if she was a good candidate.

While bariatric surgery is a tool for losing weight, patients understand that it’s not a “quick fix” for obesity. They must be committed to making certain lifestyle changes after the surgery, including major changes in the way they eat.

Laquitha learned that she had a body mass index (BMI) of 45, which made her a good candidate for the surgery. (BMI is a calculation of obesity based on height and weight, and is a more accurate indicator of obesity than relying on weight alone.) A BMI of 40 and above is a qualifying factor for the surgery. People with a BMI of 35 to 40 and who have health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and heart disease, also may be candidates for the surgery.

During her evaluation, Laquitha learned about the risks of the surgery, and the significant lifestyle changes she would need to make afterwards, such as changing the way she ate and taking vitamin and mineral supplements daily.

After careful thought, she decided to have the surgery. “Everyone in my family knew I was depressed about my weight, and they all embraced my decision.”

On October 6, 2003, surgeon Joseph Regan, MD, medical director of the Bariatric Center, performed the surgery at Columbia St. Mary’s. “She’s done phenomenally well,” Dr. Regan said, “and has undergone a remarkable transformation—not only with the way she looks but how she approaches life. This has provided a new life for her.”

“The surgery went well, and they had me up walking within one hour,” Laquitha said. “I was back to work in three weeks."

Adjusting to a New Life
The hardest part for Laquitha came during the first weeks after surgery. Her “new” smaller stomach meant she would need to eat several tiny, nutrient-rich meals each day. If she ate too much at a meal, she risked feeling nauseous. “I would prepare little packages of instant oatmeal, eat three tablespoons, and feel full,” she said. “I couldn’t eat and drink in the same meal because my stomach would fill up so quickly.”

Laquitha also had to avoid eating rich, sugary, and fried foods. And, instead of picking up fast food on the way home, she now had to prepare her meals. “In the first three weeks, I went from eating junk food to eating light foods like tuna, pureed baby foods, and Jell-O. It was a hard adjustment, and I became depressed and withdrawn for awhile,” she said.

Within a short time, her body became accustomed to the new way of eating. And her weight began to plunge. “After one week, I was down 18 pounds—I thought the scale wasn’t right!” she said. By three months, she had lost 50 pounds. “I wanted to get down to a size 12, but my weight continued to drop beyond that.”

Today, Laquitha said she can eat any food she wants. “After not having ‘bad’ foods for eight months, I really didn’t have the desire to go back to them,” Laquitha said. “I find that as long as I feel satisfied, I don’t crave the things that I used to. I consider myself a healthier eater. But, if I feel the need to indulge, I do.”

What’s the best part? Today, Laquitha is a new person inside as well as outside. She now enjoys participating in activities at her son’s school. She also travels with her husband, and has purchased a new wardrobe five times to accommodate her weight loss at various stages.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” Laquitha said. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been—with my family, my work, and my church. Everything’s different, and I love it! I would do it again in a heartbeat.”


Laquitha Before Surgery
Laquitha Before Surgery
Laquitha After Surgery
Laquitha After Surery

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