Being Comfortable in My Own Skin Again
It seemed to happen gradually, and yet all of a sudden: my weight had gotten up to over 400 pounds. I was having a lot of problems with asthma. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without breathing hard. I couldn’t walk to the end of the block and back without breathing hard. I was having a hard time breathing, period. And there were a lot of other things, too. I remember jumping in the pool with my son, and he said, “I’ll race you to the other side!” So, we raced to the other side and by the time I got there, I couldn’t breathe. He asked, “Can I get your inhaler for you?” That bothered me — when my 9-year-old had to take care of me because of something that I was doing. I decided to do something to change and looked into weight-loss surgery.
In 2012, I underwent a successful gastric sleeve procedure with Dr. Muhammad Jawad at the Orlando Health Physicians Bariatric and Laparoscopy Center. I lost 150 pounds, which is great, but I wasn’t able to exercise like I needed to, due to overuse injuries. I gained some weight back and was staying steady in the high 200s. Not quite where I wanted to be. So, in 2016, I decided to have a second bariatric procedure. The duodenal switch procedure, which was not available when I had my first surgery, allowed me to lose another 150 pounds.
I had lost 250 pounds total! But when 250 pounds are gone, a lot of skin is left. Regardless of diet and exercise, the skin lacks the elasticity to conform to a new, smaller size. I love the beach, dancing, and doing anything and everything that I can with my son, like riding roller coasters and going to waterparks. But even though I had lost all that weight, there were still some things that I just couldn’t do because of the excess skin, and some things that I didn’t want to do because of how I looked. I had very low self-esteem.
After some encouragement from loved ones, I began to think about reconstructive surgery — to close the book on what I was and begin anew. And the more we talked about it, the more I thought, you know, it would be for me. It is totally for me, and why not?
It was about that time that Dr. Omar Beidas joined the Orlando Health Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery Institute. He specializes in bariatric reconstructive surgery, and had done a fellowship in body contouring and life after weight loss. I wanted to have a consult with him and listen to what he had to say. And a lot of what he told me completely made sense. I found him to be very trustworthy and knowledgeable, and decided it was a much better option to go with somebody that had special bariatric training and knows about the bariatric patient and their unique needs.
So, in November 2018, I underwent an 8-hour procedure that included brachioplasty to remove the excess skin from my upper arms, and a panniculectomy, or tummy tuck that went from front to back. I also had some liposuction on my thighs. In April 2019, a second procedure will remove more fat from my legs, use it to rebuild my breasts, and then remove the excess skin from both areas (thighplasty and mastopexy).
Dr. Beidas was absolutely phenomenal. He gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him if I had any problems. I had some questions that I emailed him about, and he’d email me back immediately, even when he was on vacation a couple weeks after my surgery. I absolutely would – and have – 100 percent recommend him to others.
After the surgery, I needed total care. And the care was fantastic. My arms were wrapped all the way to my fingertips, so I couldn’t do anything for myself. The collaboration between the nurses and the nursing assistants in order to care for me the way they did was amazing.
Dr. Beidas told me that he likes to have his bariatric reconstruction patients recover on the bariatric floor, because they know the care those patients are going to need. It also meant a lot to me knowing that I had a doctor who knows about me and what I’ve been through.
After three nights in the hospital, I had a four-week recovery at home, with my now 15-year-old son, my boyfriend and my mom caring for me. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without that total support system.
Because of Orlando Health and Dr. Beidas, I have gained a lot a self-esteem. I knew beforehand that the surgery was going to change my life. I went from a size 12 to a size 8 just from the first reconstructive surgery. It’s great to be able to walk into a store and pick up a medium and know that it’s probably going to fit. My mom is so proud of me. As my Christmas present, she took me on a day-long shopping spree to buy a new wardrobe. We literally cleaned out my closet and started fresh. That was fun.
The ones who know my story will stop me, give me a hug and say, “Oh, I’m so proud of you. You look so great.” I’ve actually even had complete strangers walk up to me and say, “You don’t know me, but I’ve seen you walking around here for years and I just want to tell you that you look awesome.” So yeah, it’s been a lot of fun.
My boyfriend is a ballroom dance teacher. He’s been teaching me, but I wasn’t comfortable doing it before because of the hanging skin on my arms. But now I can, and I love it.
Bariatric surgery is a total lifestyle change, and reconstructive surgery is a complex procedure. It’s quite a process, but for me, it’s a small price to pay for being able to ride a roller coaster or zip-line with my son, go to the beach or ballroom dancing, or look forward to a summer cruise to celebrate it all!
I Was Able To Close the Book on What I Was and Begin Anew.
I love the beach, dancing, doing anything and everything that I can with my son, like riding roller coasters and going to waterparks. But even though I had lost 250 pounds, there were still some things that I just couldn’t do because of the excess skin, and some things that I didn’t want to do because of how I looked. Because of Orlando Health and Dr. Beidas, I was able to close the book on what I was and begin anew.