Comfortable in Her Own Skin

Conditions & Care, Service Line
November 28, 2018
Comfortable in Her Own Skin

Last summer, 40-year-old Tonya Lanham spent her family vacations riding roller coasters, traveling from Orlando to Pennsylvania and back to Ohio. It was something she had missed doing with her husband, daughter and son when she weighed an activity-limiting 304 pounds.

During that time, “I was in pain a lot and always sitting on the sidelines and watching my family do stuff,” she says of her former life. “I wasn’t living life to the fullest with my kids or my husband.”

Fatigue, back pain and being out of breath when she bent to tie her shoes were just a few of the realities her excessive weight imposed on Tonya’s life.

In August 2016, Tonya fully committed to changing her weight and her life. She had a sleeve gastrectomy procedure to reduce her stomach, performed by TriHealth Weight Management surgeon George Kerlakian, MD.

As she shed 100, then 120 and finally 140 pounds over the next two years, she felt great. Yet, she was left with a constant reminder of her former self: big folds of skin that weren’t shrinking back into place on her abdomen and legs.

“It became apparent I wasn’t going to be the lucky one who didn’t have to deal with the extra skin. I was healthier and could do more things, but it came with a little bit of baggage. I was getting rashes in the two big folds on my stomach,” Tonya says. “The extra skin has so much impact when you’re running or jumping during exercise. It physically hurt me.”

The TriHealth Weight Management team referred Tonya to William Tobler Jr., MD, a plastic surgeon with TriHealth Cosmetic Surgery & Rejuvenation Center.

Much More Than a Cosmetic Procedure

To remove both folds of skin on Tonya’s abdomen, Dr. Tobler recommended a procedure called a fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty. He explains that to get rid of skin in both the lower and upper abdomen, he makes “a traditional cut that runs under the bikini line and a vertical incision down the abdomen to get rid of tissue in the upper part of the abdomen.”

The procedure gets its name from the shape of the tissue removed. It resembles a fleur-de-lis, a stylized three-petaled lily.

Dr. Tobler notes, “This is more extensive than a tummy tuck. You have more scars as a trade off to get rid of extra skin. Plastic surgery requires an aesthetic eye to appreciate how to move tissues around and reshape the skin for each individual patient.”

Tonya recalls, “I was at the point that ‘this needs to be done.’ I was ready for it. I couldn’t go on worrying about back pain and rashes from the extra skin.”

She continues, “Dr. Tobler has a really good staff. His assistant and nurse were right on top of things, answering my questions.”

Dr. Tobler performed Tonya’s surgery in March 2018 at Good Samaritan Hospital. “I was worried about the two big incisions, but they never hurt,” Tonya marvels. She says the most noticeable discomfort was the abdominal muscles Dr. Tobler had to tighten during surgery. “You don’t want to sneeze,” she states.

She praises the care of the hospital nurses who checked on her and were right there when she experienced muscle pain. They also adjusted her meals to accommodate the sleeve gastrectomy. “They were totally awesome.”

Enjoying the Rewards

Recovery from the surgery required taking it easy for a number of weeks, and Tonya’s scars continue to fade over time.

She feels more confident and less self-conscious in her work as an Emergency Services representative at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Tonya can push her computer cart more easily from room to room and not feel worn out being on her feet.

“I can walk a little prouder,” she says. The woman who once wore size 26 pants and 3X shirts now wears size 8 or 10 and can buy medium or small tops. She hopes to have Dr. Tobler remove some of the excess skin on her legs, as well.

Dr. Tobler praised Tonya’s positive attitude and is pleased with her progress. “Helping patients achieve their goals and seeing their satisfaction with the end result is the most satisfying thing I do in my job.”

Now, when Tonya’s 14-year-old son challenges her to race down the sidewalk, she can do it.

“This has made my quality of life so much better. It’s been a big blessing to me. I’m able to do so much more.”

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