Patient Spotlight – Tamika Littleton

Tamika Littleton

Tell us about yourself

In 2011, I made the decision to move forward with a weight loss procedure. The first procedure I had was the lap band. Prior to that I had high blood pressure and I was diabetic. I was on medication for both; that was about three years ago. I was 36 and I was still pretty active but I was taking medication quite often. That was the only thing that really got me, because I didn’t really have anything else that was wrong with me other than those things. Prior to that I felt like I was perfectly fine with the way that I looked and the way that I felt. It wasn’t until I found out I was diabetic and had high blood pressure that I decided to have the surgery.

How did you choose your doctor?

I first went through another provider. When they did my blood work, my A1C levels were too high to have the procedure. I was so angry, I cried.  I thought I was always going to be fat and on medication and that I would never be healthy.  At that point my consultant referred me to another doctor. At first I was hesitant, because I felt I had been given the runaround before, but decided to try him out.

So I went to Dr. Rodriguez and walked in and told him what I wanted and he said, “Okay, I think that would be fine for you.” Two days later I got the phone call from his office that I had been approved by my insurance.  I felt like it was meant to be.

Any fear leading up to the procedure?

I’ve never been placed under. That was my main concern. I felt like when I was put under, I would never wake up. I’ve heard so many horrible stories about the lap band. People talk about how it can slip or that they couldn’t keep any food down. There were a lot of fears that I had.

How did you overcome your fears?

It was just something that I had to force myself to get ready for; it was just time. It was do or die; do it now or pay in the end.

How long has it been?

I had the lap band on April 25th 2011. Since then, I’ve had a second procedure by Dr. Dirk Rodriguez. I had the gastric sleeve. I got that March the 27th of this year.

What was the first positive change you saw after the first procedure?

The way that my clothes fit. That was the first thing I noticed. I take that back, the first thing I noticed was I couldn’t eat what I wanted (laughs). I had a lot of restrictions and I figured I would test the waters. For me I was told I couldn’t eat this and I couldn’t eat that, but I decided I would try it anyway. Then I quickly realized why I couldn’t have it.

What would you tell someone thinking about weight-loss surgery?

I would tell them not to get the lap band. If they were seriously considering surgery and they didn’t want to do the bypass; then do the gastric sleeve. Bypass the lap band all together. I had complications with the lap band. It’s not designed to stay in your body the rest of your life. Having to go in consistently for maintenance was nerve racking.

Would you go through the process again?

When you ask me now, I’d have to say yes. If you asked me after the lap band, I would say no.

Has there been any change in your outlook on life?

Yes, I enjoy the fact that I’m not on medications anymore. It makes me value life. I’ve seen the doctors’ way less as I no longer have any of those issues anymore.

What was the response from your friends and family?

They were excited. Now I think I want to lose 30 more pounds and they tell me, “No stop, you don’t need to lose anymore weight; you’re going to look sick.”

How do you stay motivated?

I know the goal. Because I’ve had the lap band I can see what procedures like this can do. It’s mainly fear now. I wasn’t cut on the inside with the lap band. Now I know my stomach was cut and it’s not completely healed so I’m more afraid I might do something to it.

Exercise?

Right now, Dr. Rodriguez would probably be mad at me, I only exercise 3-4 times a week. I do more strength than cardio. I do a little bit of cardio, but more strength because of the massive weight-loss I had with the lap band. Now I want to focus more on toning.

How was working with Dr. Dirk after the procedure?

It was a smooth transition. One thing I can say about Dr. Rodriguez is he is going to stay on you. He looks for you to do the right things. If you don’t do the right things, he’s going to scold you like you’re a kid (laughs) to make sure you are doing the right thing.  He really stayed on me a great deal and I love him for that, because I needed it. With the lap band, I didn’t have the at home support I would’ve wanted as opposed to now after the gastric sleeve; I have all the support in the world. Dr. Rodriguez was not only a doctor and a friend; he was a support system as well.

Before I was at home alone. The few friends I had were jealous; they weren’t really there for me. I had to do a lot of things on my own. Now I’m in a relationship and my friends are gung ho about it [exercising]. I didn’t have that before.

Closing thoughts?

The one thing I want to say, I’m part of a weight-loss support group online and I hear a lot of people voice a lot of complaints. For me, with my initial surgery, I did have some complications. But the one thing I tell people is those things are temporary. The one thing you need to think of is long term and what your future will look like afterwards. If you only harp on what’s going on, you’re going to let it defeat you. The purpose is for you to live a long healthy life. Once you get that established in your mind, the sky is the limit.