Mommy Makeover Success for Neptune, New Jersey Woman

April 12, 2021

Typically, we photograph every patient appearing in HealthU. Because this story was planned during the COVID-19 pandemic, that contact would have been too risky. Instead, our team took a creative approach and replaced photo shoots with illustrated portraits of patients.

When she’s anxious or stressed, Shantee Small likes to color. Because there’s no shortage of things to be stressed about in the age of COVID-19, she finds herself coloring a lot. Before the pandemic, however, the greatest source of anxiety for her was her weight.

“I’ve been plus-sized my whole life,” says Shantee, 32, of Neptune, New Jersey. “I’ve tried everything to lose weight. I’ve tried pills. I’ve tried different diets. I’ve done detoxes.”

Although it never came easy, she was successful at times. But because she has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the pounds always seemed to come back. Still, Shantee was determined to lose the weight and keep it off.

Her resolve took on new importance when her daughter was born. “I was knocking on the door of 400 pounds, so I knew I had to lose weight if I wanted to be healthy and active enough for her,” says Shantee, who also has two stepchildren with her wife of seven years. “Whether it was because of severe back pain from my weight or just the fact that I was so out of shape, I knew I wouldn’t be able to run after her and play with her the way I wanted to. I knew I had to do something about it.”

That “something” turned out to be surgery. “Surgery was on my radar for four or five years before I did it,” says Shantee, who opted for laparoscopic gastric sleeve surgery with Dena Arumugam, M.D., a bariatric surgeon at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “Dr. Arumugam was amazing. She walked me through everything leading up to the surgery and made me feel really comfortable from the time I walked into her office to the day of surgery.”

The surgery was a resounding success. Not only has Shantee lost weight, but she’s also reversed her high blood sugar, high blood pressure and pre-diabetes, all of which she suffered from prior to surgery. Even her back pain is gone.

“It’s been two years, and Shantee has been doing amazing,” Dr. Arumugam says. “She has lost about 150 pounds and feels great. She’s eating right. She’s exercising. Her blood pressure is under control. She tells me she feels like a different person, and I can see the change in her when she comes into my office.”

The most important person who can see the change, however, is Shantee’s daughter. “She’s so active,” Shantee says. “She likes to run around at the park, and when it snows, she wants to go outside and have snowball fights. I’m teaching her how to ride a bike, and I can actually bend over and run after her. Those are the kinds of things I couldn’t do before.”

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