For Naiesha Brooks, 44, knee pain and missing her children’s activities were finally too much to bear.
She had always been an active person, enjoying dancing and exercising, especially boxing. During one strenuous boxing workout she tore the meniscus in her knee, the C-shaped piece of tough cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your shinbone and thighbone. It’s a common knee injury and easily repaired, but Naiesha put off getting the surgery for years.
After starting a family and eventually undergoing a hysterectomy, Naiesha started gaining weight, which made the knee pain even worse. She tried various diets, but none made a difference. A confident and outgoing person, she didn’t let this keep her from entering beauty pageants. In 1999 she was crowned Ms. Full-Figured USA and in 2010 Ms. Full-Figured Ultimate Beauty.
However, when she realized that her weight and her knees were causing her to miss her kids’ activities, she started researching bariatric weight loss surgery. She was referred to Dr. Karl Strom, weight loss surgeon and medical director of the Center for Advanced Bariatric Surgery at Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center.
After an office visit, Dr. Strom scheduled Naiesha to have gastric sleeve surgery. In this type of surgery, the surgeon removes part of the stomach and joins the remaining portions together to make a new banana-sized stomach or "sleeve."
“Mountainside Medical Center saved my life,” said Naiesha. “Dr. Strom was wonderful and one nurse gave me so much comfort, sharing that she was a former gastric sleeve surgery patient. ‘The recovery will get better,’ she told me. The nutritionist was also very supportive in the rehab efforts after surgery as I struggled to keep down liquids.”
Six weeks after surgery, Naiesha was cleared to begin exercising. She started walking in the park with ankle weights and 2 pound dumbbells. Later she was able to walk 2.5 miles around the lake and get back into boxing.
She joined a fitness facility that was looking for a trainer and started teaching dance again. Later she rented her own space, She Pumps Fitness & Wellness Studio, to teach dance and fitness.
“I believe in the mind, body and soul connection,” said Naiesha. “Anyone can join a gym and many people quit. You have to train your mind to be consistent and committed. The psychiatrist I spoke to as part of the bariatric program helped me with this. Once you change your mindset, completing your goals comes easier,” said Naiesha.
There are women at her studio who also had gastric sleeve surgery, but they find it hard to believe Naiesha had the surgery. “Where’s all your loose skin?” they ask. “I tell them I didn’t have another surgery to get rid of the loose skin, I just worked hard and toned my muscles with exercise. It’s all a matter of your commitment and will,” says Naiesha. “That’s why our studio motto is ‘I can, I will, I must.”
For more information about our bariatric center, visit the program’s web page.