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Hope and Life Renewed for Woman After Bariatric Surgery

Cheryl Brown after weight loss surgery

Nearly 20 years after her daughter's birth in 1994, Cheryl Brown wasn't sure she would be around long enough to witness her daughter's greatest milestones. By the time Brown came to the University of Chicago Medicine in 2011, Brown's weight tipped the scale at 250 pounds on her 4'10" frame, and her obesity was just the beginning of a long list of problems stemming from her weight.

Brown was suffering from high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. She also had sleep apnea, which required her to sleep with a CPAP machine, asthma and arthritis that would swell her joints so badly "I could fry an egg on my knee." The mounting medical problems added the burden of multiple medications and repeat visits to her doctors.

Cheryl Brown with her daughter, before gastric bypass surgery Brown with her daughter before gastric bypass surgery

"When you're sick like I was, you're not living. You're just existing," Brown said.

Starting in 2008, Brown had tried the whole gamut of solutions, including a Paleo-style diet and a medical supervised weight loss program -- but none of these measures helped Brown keep the weight off and she always reverted back to her old habits and ailments. A turning point came in 2009, when Brown visited her primary care physician for a routine check-up.

"My doctor took an A1C test of my blood sugar level, and the results showed my levels were off the charts," Brown said. "At that moment, my doctor told me it was a wonder I hadn't dropped dead in the streets yet."

Brown required an injection of insulin in the office that same day and was sent home with a prescription for insulin to control her diabetes. She redoubled efforts to improve her health and lifestyle, first enrolling in nutrition classes and then Weight Watchers. Both efforts proved ineffective, and in 2011 Brown, feeling hopeless, consulted her primary care physician once more. The doctor recommended bariatric surgery.

"Those words to me, it was like a kid opening a present on Christmas Day," Brown said.

Brown's primary care physician gave her a list of recommended bariatric surgery programs in the Chicagoland area, but none of the institutions were viable options. One Internet search later, she settled on the University of Chicago Medicine based on its reputation. The internationally renowned institution is the only hospital in the Chicagoland area that offers all four bariatric procedures laparoscopically: the Lap-Band, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy and duodenal switch. In August 2011, she was scheduled for an information session designed to give patients a comprehensive overview of their bariatric surgical options as well as life after surgery. She was scheduled for gastric bypass surgery in April 2012.

Dr. Mustafa Hussain, gastrointestinal surgeon Mustafa Hussain, MD

“At the University of Chicago, we recognize that patients are individuals and their problems are unique," said minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgeon Mustafa Hussain, MD. "Having the expertise and ability to safely offer all four minimally invasive weight loss surgeries, we are confident that we will be able to find the right fit for every patient’s needs.”

The procedure was performed by Hussain, who was fellowship-trained in bariatric surgery at Cornell University and Columbia University in New York. Hussain's unique expertise extends beyond the operating room: His research interests include bariatric surgery outcomes, the genetics and physiology of obesity, the impact of gut hormones on obesity and diabetes.

"From Dr. Hussain down to his nurses, everyone gave me the confidence that I was making the right decision to have gastric bypass surgery," Brown said. "They included me in the decision process. And now, I feel so blessed to have this surgery because it changed my life. Every aspect of it."

More than one year later, Brown has lost more than 80 pounds. What's more, she is no longer plagued with the weight-related ailments that were keeping her from living life to the fullest. Her diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis -- and all the medication and devices that came with them -- are now a thing of her past. Brown now looks forward to a new life full of energy and new opportunities, including one day watching her daughter start her own family.

October 2013

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