Sleeve Gastrectomy

Tonia's "Before and After" Photo

Tonia was seeing signs all over. 

In November, 2012, her already-poor health was taking a sharp decline. She knew she needed to lose weight, but nothing worked for her in the past. 

But this time, it was a matter of life and death. 

“In 2012, I had been in the hospital four times for asthma and congestive heart failure-related complications,” says Tonia. “I was at my highest weight – 439 pounds. I could barely walk from the bed to the bathroom. I knew I had to do something drastic.”

But what?

In the weeks that followed, Tonia met three different women who had weight-loss surgery. 

“When I met the first woman at a party, it gave me the idea,” says Tonia. “When I met the other two women, it solidified my decision.”

Tonia, a 46-year-old mom of two began to research her options. She went to an information session, and made her appointment with Chief of Bariatric Surgery Dr. Noel Williams. 

Before Surgery

Tonia wasn’t a stranger to feeling unwell. She was battling a heart condition that made it difficult for her to move and breathe. Suffering from severe asthma, exercising was nearly impossible for her.

“I was sick a lot of the time and on oxygen,” she remembers. “I could barely walk in my house, and everyone was doing everything for me - I couldn’t even wash dishes without sitting down.”

Tonia suffered from sleep apnea and was on high dosages of medications to help manage her heart condition.

But then, she began her journey toward a healthier life with Penn. 

“Failure was not an option for me.”

“The dietitians in the program helped me learn how to eat right, and what I needed to do after surgery,” says Tonia. “My husband even changed his own habits and started to support me even before I had surgery.”

Tonia lost 15 pounds before her sleeve gastrectomy on May 6, 2013, and was ready for a life-long commitment to healthier eating and living. 

“My attitude always stayed positive,” she says. “I think that’s what helped me be successful throughout the whole process.”

Tonia’s surgery went well, and her new-found healthier eating habits began impacting her entire family. 

“My daughter and husband started eating better, and following my example,” she says. “Within weeks, I could walk throughout my home with no effort.”

Tonia also says she took advantage of “everything Penn had to offer” from support groups to physical therapists, to post-op appointments with her team.

“I even joined a gym!” she says. “I use the treadmill and recumbent bikes – something I never could have done before surgery.”

Since her sleeve gastrectomy, Tonia’s lost 105 pounds. She’s off most of her medication, no longer has sleep apnea, and is down from a size 30/32 shirt to an 18/20.

“I have a long way to go, but I am so far from where I used to be,” she says. “I feel like a completely different person.”

Tonia’s Tips

  • Tonia has been successful with her weight loss losing a total of 130 pounds with Penn Medicine. Here is what worked for her:
  • Research everything. It’s not an easy decision, and it requires a life-long commitment to eating differently than you are used to.
  • Think about your decision. If you pray, pray about it. Don’t make rash decisions, or they may backfire.
  • Be patient. You didn’t put on the weight overnight, so don’t expect it to be gone overnight. You will have challenges, but if you stay strong and connected to those who support you, you will be successful.

Learn about weight-loss surgery at Penn at a free information session. Register here

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