To your health

By Bobby Parker, June 2022

Tameka Griffin had struggled with her weight since childhood.

“I was raised to eat what I wanted,” she says.

She was always “gaining weight, then losing weight, then …”

“I just felt unhealthy,” Griffin says, adding that she suffered foot pain, back pain and other maladies that she just could not overcome.

She peaked at 287 pounds.

She tried sticking to a more healthful diet. The Keto regimen helped, but she always seemed to get off track.

Griffin, 37, who works at Cape Fear Valley Health, has three children ages 18, 8 and 3. When she learned of others who had turned to bariatric surgery to resolve long-term struggles with weight and diet, she decided to look into her own options.
That’s when she made the commitment and pursued a medical solution to her lifelong challenge. She decided to have a gastric sleeve, which has become the fastest-growing surgery for weight loss in the nation.

In a gastric sleeve, the surgeon removes a large section of the stomach, leaving a narrow tube-like canal or “sleeve” that holds just 15% of the original stomach capacity. Patients feel fuller with smaller food portions as a result.

Today, Griffin weighs in at about 168 pounds. She underwent surgery in March 2021.

Debbie Wooten, a bariatric coordinator at Cape Fear Valley, says bariatric surgery is “not a short-term fix. It’s a lifetime commitment.”

Wooten guides patients who are considering bariatric procedures through the process, helping them understand their options and the consequences.

“We don’t try to sugar-coat it,” Wooten says. “This is going to be a life changer, but our team is here to support patients along the journey.”

“Patients need to understand this surgery affects both the ‘mind’ and ‘body.’”
Wooten walks patients through the self-doubting stage, helps handle their questions and is there to watch them achieve their weight loss goals.

Typically, overweight people suffer from conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea, Wooten notes. Thus, the primary benefit of bariatric surgery is not so much weight loss but doing something to address medical issues.

Amber Kennedy, who also counsels bariatric patients at Cape Fear Valley, agrees that having the surgery is a huge step.

“The key is compassion and being their support person,” Kennedy says. “There’s a fear of change, like, ‘What’s my life going to be like after this surgery?’”

People considering the surgery undergo a rigorous screening process that includes consulting their primary care doctor, talking with a psychological counselor and advice from a nutritionist. Griffin committed to going to the gym at least three days a week.

After surgery, Cape Fear Valley provides support groups in which people who have undergone bariatric surgery can come together to bolster each other’s commitment. Many in the support groups have become fast friends who socialize and exercise together for years to come, Wooten says.

Tameka Griffin says she has no regrets.

She gave up foods such as pork, fast food burgers, sugar and soft drinks and anything high in carbohydrates.

“Oh, I’m going to eat it every now and then,” she says. “But I’m more healthy. I can walk and play with my kids.”

It’s a confidence reflected in her mirror.

Bariatric surgery offers solution to lifelong struggle with weight