From a young age, Maria had struggled with her weight. She unsuccessfully tried diet and exercise programs. By the time she was 9, she weighed 250 pounds. By 15, she was dangerously overweight and had developed pre-diabetes and high blood pressure.
“I had trouble walking up stairs. I couldn’t take a regular gym class,” Maria recalled. “Just moving around was difficult because of my size. When I was told that I would not see my 18th birthday, I decided to find a bariatric surgeon. I knew that was the only way that was going to live.”
At 14, she worked with Evan Nadler, M.D., and his interdisciplinary team. Dr. Nadler is the director of the Weight-Loss Surgery Program at Children's National and co-director of the Obesity Program.
“Maria’s health risks before surgery were significant,” said Dr. Nadler. “She gained a lot of weight within a few years, and was starting to suffer from shortness of breath and the inability to exercise, insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. Surgery was basically a last chance for her.”
“I wasn’t ready to lose my daughter,” said Maria’s mother, Terrie. “You know she’s 15 years old. She’s my life. I wasn’t going to lose her.”
For adolescents who have been classified as morbidly obese and have other health conditions caused by obesity, weight-loss surgery may be an appropriate treatment. Maria was the first patient to have weight-loss surgery at Children's National.
“The surgery is not a cure-all, it’s a tool that helps patients achieve what they need to,” Dr. Nadler explained. “But it still requires eating the right foods, getting enough exercise, to maintain good health.”
A team including Dr. Nadler, a psychologist, and a nutritionist worked with Maria for several months to prepare her for weight-loss surgery -- the sleeve gastrectomy procedure. With its multidisciplinary approach, the team developed a personalized plan for Maria that helped her get a healthy start on a new life.
“They’re truly passionate about helping you succeed in your weight loss,” Maria said.
Five years after her surgery, Maria has made tremendous strides to reduce her weight. She’s lost about 141 pounds and she’s in college.
“Now I can walk up the stairs in college. I went on a hike with one of my classes, and I could breathe and I could keep up with them,” Maria said. “I feel better physically, emotionally, mentally – everything. I feel like a new person and it feels incredible.”
Watch Maria's story before her surgery five years ago when she first came to Children's National.