Daughters Motivate Mother to Have
Bariatric Surgery, Lose Weight

Nickol Tillman
(photographed in May 2009)
works out on a daily basis
and has more energy
since her surgery.

Nickol Tillman in May 2008,
prior to surgery.

Nickol Tillman knew the odds were against her - a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.

The 39-year-old decided she wasn't going to be a statistic. Tillman, who was 120 pounds overweight, had too much to live for with three daughters: 9-year-old twins and a 15-year-old.

In November 2008, Tillman had bariatric (surgical weight-loss) surgery through the Chicago Institute of Advanced Bariatrics of Saint Joseph Hospital.

"I wanted to live to see the girls live their lives," said Tillman on why she had surgery. Being overweight, Tillman had suffered back and knee problems requiring surgery, and she also has asthma.

Innovative Procedure

Tillman underwent a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, which is the surgical removal of most of the stomach, resulting in a "sleeve" that is roughly the size and shape of a banana. Patients eat less and lose weight because of a reduced-stomach capacity.

Saint Joseph is one of the first hospitals in Illinois to perform this innovative procedure.

Rami Lutfi, M.D., a board-certified bariatric surgeon and Institute medical director, performed the surgery. "Dr. Lutfi is very personable - he's a people person," said the Chatham/Avalon resident.

Prior to surgery, Tillman lost 25 pounds. Since the procedure, she has taken off another 68 pounds and feels great.

"My energy level has increased - I'm not as lethargic," said Tillman, a site manager for a daycare facility on Chicago's south side. "I'm in a better mood and not in pain with my knees and feet. I feel better about myself."

According to Tillman, surgery has changed her life completely. She is more organized and focused because she's not in pain or worried about weight. She works out on a home treadmill for 35-45 minutes a day and participates in hula hoop aerobics twice a week.

Eating Smaller Meals

A big adjustment has been eating smaller meals. The intense nutrition counseling has been very helpful for Tillman, who is also teaching her daughters how to eat healthy.

Tillman spent four days in the hospital following surgery, and then took three weeks off from work.

"The care and the nurses on the floor were excellent - it was the best hospital stay I had experienced since the birth of my daughters," she said.

She is looking forward to losing 30 more pounds and reaching her goal.

"I would highly recommend it to others - most definitely," Tillman said. "It's the best thing I could have done."

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