Before & After VSG with Sharon

Before & After VSG with Sharon, down 80 pounds!

June 8, 2021

Before & After VSG with Sharon: Why I decided to have WLS

What is my story? I had an average childhood. I was athletic and played two to three sports at one time. I was of average height and weight, but I did weigh more than my close circle of friends. I had to buy a size bigger in pants before they did. I reached each number on the scale first. You know, 80lbs, 90lbs, 100lbs! 100 hundred pounds was the big one… my friends did not weigh 100 pounds yet!

My mother and grandmother always talked about their weight. My mom was always on a diet. Food was emotional in my family. Every special occasion revolved around food. Food was a reward for everything.

Food was also there when things did not go right, and you needed a reward for having a bad day. We always had plenty to eat. My mom worked hard to feed us healthy food. She cooked dinner every single night. We did not do take-out. As my family grew, we had 6 meals out per year: for birthdays. The birthday person got to choose where we would eat! That was some of the best times because we got to eat all the stuff we were always “deprived” of.

My mother would do the shopping once a month. She would buy our favorite sugary breakfast foods and afterschool snacks, but those would be gone in a week. So, we would eat as much as we could of those things while they were there, then would “suffer” through the next three weeks until she would buy it again. I remember feeling hungry a lot as a child. I was fed well, but I just always wanted something that tasted good to eat.

When I was 15, my parents divorced. My mother had a job for the first time in my life. Her job not only kept her away from the house when I was home much of the time, but it also allowed her to bring home food that could not be sold for one reason or another. It was not healthy food either.

I also had a job and a car soon after the divorce and, therefore, my own money and freedom. What do money and freedom give you access to? Drive-thru lanes!!!! So, there I was, struggling through high school, struggling through family drama, had become a latch-key kid with little supervision, had my own money and a car.

Food was always there to make things better.

I started my first official diet when I was 18, Nutrisystem. Well, that food was absolutely disgusting, and I quickly gave that up. Next was Slim Fast. The shakes were ok but eating that chicken and vegetable meal at the end of the day was just so difficult when I could easily order take-out on my way home from work.

Then I joined a gym. I was athletic as a child, but now as an adult, I had to work and finish school, and there just was not any time for sports. Well, the gym did not work out because I did not have the time. I bought a horse and had to work more to pay for boarding, training, and lessons.

Over the next ten years, I did all the diets: gluten-free, low carb, low fat, vegetarian, vegan, keto, all of them that I could find. I dieted my way from 160 pounds at age 22 to 260 pounds at age 32. I also fought Lyme disease during that time, but that is a whole other story. I became a couch potato. I still worked with horses but hardly ever rode anymore. I had quit competing and pretty much had given up on life.

Before & After VSG with Sharon

Before & After VSG with Sharon

Name: Sharon
Total Weight Lost: 80 lbs.
Surgery Date: 6/24/20
Surgery Type: VSG
Surgeon: Dr. Venecia Hernandez Leon

My Surgery and Post-Op Life

My doctor asked if I had considered WLS. I said, “I will try anything”. I went to the first appointment at the weight loss program and started jumping through all the hoops. Tracking food, exercise, and attending support group meetings.

The first month, I lost 9 pounds. My nurse was thrilled. The second month another 5 pounds. The third month, I gained 10, was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and told I had to be 90% compliant with the CPAP and my weight loss plan for another 3 months or I would not be considered for surgery.

Well, for many reasons, that was impossible. I tried but just could not get the weight to come off. Also, the CPAP was not working for me! I felt I got zero support and again resigned myself to a life of obesity, depression, anxiety, and watching my dreams disappear. I was 279 pounds and had no hope for improvement.

A friend brought up WLS in Mexico. I did a Google search, and Jet Medical Tourism popped up with an advertisement for gastric sleeve surgery for $4500. I decided I was either going to get WLS, or I was going to totally give up on life. So, I emailed the company, and the rest is history!

Dr. Leon reviewed my medical records and approved me as a patient. Within a week! I received my preop instructions, booked my flights and hotel, and suddenly it was happening! I spent one night in San Diego, was transported to the San Juan clinic, where I was greeted like a VIP! There were security officers at the entrance who took my bags and escorted me into the clinic.

The receptionist greeted us and asked how our travel had been and how I was feeling. I felt like she really cared that I was comfortable and felt secure. She spoke Spanish and English and therefore was my interpreter through the first few minutes with the nurses. They took my vital signs and asked some basic questions. This was another time I felt just so comfortable. The nurses during the entire experience were incredibly compassionate and respectful. Despite our language barrier, I always felt respected and cared for.

From intake, I was taken to preop, and my companion was shown into the room where I would wait for my surgery time. I was given an IV, had some monitors put on, and settled into a bed. I was so thankful for that IV because I was dehydrated from travel and not being allowed to consume anything that morning. I have a feeling there was also something to calm my nerves in it as well.

Within an hour of arriving at the clinic, I was settled, relaxed, and ready to meet the surgical team. I met a patient advocate who would also serve as my translator if I ever needed one during my stay. She made sure I knew how to contact her.

I was given a completely painless ECG. I met my anesthesiologist, who asked a few questions about my previous experience with anesthesia and told me what to expect from her when I got to the surgery suite. Dr. Leon visited about an hour before surgery, and that settled my mind and nerves even further. She was incredibly thorough and efficient in her explanation of the procedure. All my questions were answered, and I felt completely reassured by her presence.

About thirty minutes later, I was wheeled down to surgery, where I saw my anesthesiologist and Dr. Leon. I moved onto the table where a mask was placed on me, and I was told to count backward.

I remember waking up in a typical-looking hospital room with two nurses by my bed and my companion in a chair across the room. I have had surgery before and therefore knew what to expect upon waking from anesthesia.

The nurses were very professional and helped me through the first several minutes of waking and gaining my bearings. Once I was again settled in bed, I was told to rest, and they would check with me in a couple of hours. When the nurse returned, she helped me up, and I walked around the room. Surprisingly, it was not painful. I was instructed to get up and do a few laps around the room and into the hallway every hour. In between, I slept comfortably. I was under the influence of anesthesia for the first 24 hours, so my memory is blurry.

The next morning, I was able to take a shower. I really did not want to, as I was nervous about my incisions and standing in the shower etc. However, that shower was the best I have ever had, and after that, I felt human again! So, what I am saying is, look forward to that shower on day two because that is when your new life begins! I was then transported to a different building for the leak test x-ray then brought back to the clinic. My nurse brought in a tray of liquids that I was to attempt to consume. There was water, juice, jello, and mango juice (which became my favorite drink even after returning home! Interesting, huh?). I took a few sips of different things, continued to get up and walk every hour for the rest of the day and through the second night. Dr. Leon stopped in to check on me that second day; however, as I said, it is a bit blurry.

The day I was to be discharged, Dr. Leon visited me to go over instructions and sent me home with the most detailed and helpful discharge instructions I have ever received! She also made sure I had her contact information and reassured me that she would keep in touch. I was told never to hesitate to ask her any questions once I returned home. It had been less than 48 hours since my surgery, but I was feeling good! I could sip liquids and walk comfortably, and I was not the least bit concerned with returning home at that point. I could not believe how easy everything had gone!

Before & After VSG with Sharon: Special Milestones / Non-Scale Victories

After I returned home, I received continued support from Dr. Leon. She helped me navigate some acid reflux issues as well as teaching me the best ways to add new foods as I progressed through the weeks of recovery.

I am currently almost a year out from surgery and down 80 pounds! I feel like I can live again.

I was such an active person in my younger years that it was just so depressing to think I would spend the rest of my life obese and sitting on the sidelines.

As I mentioned before, I bought a horse when I was 15 and continued to pursue a career in Therapeutic Horseback Riding as an instructor and program manager. It is a very physically demanding job, and carrying around over 100 pounds of extra body weight was causing me to have to consider giving up this dream.

I am now 100% back on track with my life goals! I am riding and training horses again. I have achieved a new certification as an Equine Facilities Manager. I have been promoted from Instructor to Program Director in my current Therapeutic riding program.

I am on track to accomplish my master certification as a riding instructor and plan to resume competitions with my horses. Less than one year ago, I did not think any of that was possible anymore. I am so grateful that Dr. Leon gave me a chance to let Gastric Sleeve Surgery work for me and save my life!

How has been a part of your journey? is becoming my go-to source for support and information as I navigate this next phase in my recovery. I love the articles on nutrition and suggestions for simple ways to add exercise into my day. It is also a great community atmosphere. I love reading everyone’s stories. We can share struggles and support each other as a community. I am so grateful for a new lease on life!

Before & After VSG with Sharon

Celebrate your own Before & After WLS Success, milestones, non-scale victories, and inspire others! The OH team wants to hear from you to share your weight loss surgery journey. Visit our Before & After Submission page for details.