Bariatric Sleeve Surgery Gives Miami Mother New Lease on Life Post-Traumatic Car Accident
By: Miranda Torres
In June of 2021, Sulamyn Diaz was involved in a severe car accident that resulted in the loss of both her legs. Now, she is taking steps, both literally and metaphorically, toward a brighter future thanks to her care team at Jackson West Medical Center.
After her above-the-knee amputations two years ago, Diaz was convinced her life as she knew it was over. She went from living an active, healthy lifestyle as a chef, to struggling with severe depression and being wheelchair bound. Her post-traumatic stress also led to an 80-pound weight gain, and left Diaz unable to support herself on her prosthetic legs.
“My mental health deteriorated immensely, not just because I lost my legs, but because I lost my life,” Diaz said. “I was very worried about what my future would look like.”
The rapid weight gain made Diaz feel disconnected, and caused a strain not just in her relationship with her family, but in her relationship with herself.
“I didn’t recognize myself when I looked in the mirror,” she said. “I didn’t want to let my daughters down or fail them.”
In an attempt to lose weight, Diaz tried multiple diets, exercise, and sought the help of a nutritionist, but nothing was helping. It got to a point where she knew she needed bariatric intervention to get back to her old self.
Diaz mentioned her weight-loss struggle to her primary care physician, who then recommended meeting with Irving Miranda, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Jackson West. During that initial appointment, Dr. Miranda bonded with Diaz over her resilience in the face of adversity.
“When I first met Sulamyn, she was very depressed and felt she had no hope,” Dr. Miranda said. “I knew she was a fighter when she said her goal was to be back on her prosthetics in six months. That’s why I connected with her so much.”
He then laid out Diaz’s options, highlighting the gastric sleeve surgery, a bariatric procedure in which 70 to 80 percent of the stomach is removed, leaving behind a banana-like tube or sleeve that helps restrict a patient’s appetite.
“That first appointment with Dr. Miranda was just amazing because I believed him when he reassured me that I had options,” Diaz said. “When I left that appointment, I told my mom, ‘if he’s as a good a surgeon as he is as a human being, then I’m set.’”
In order to prepare for her bariatric surgery, Dr. Miranda suggested Diaz focus on getting back into physical activity. He also encouraged her to join one of Jackson’s bariatric support groups in order to feel emotionally supported.
“I felt God put me in her path and vice a versa for a reason, to achieve her goal and get her back on her feet again,” Dr. Miranda said.
Initially, Diaz’s body mass index (BMI) was 70. Four months later at her pre-operation appointment, her BMI had dropped to 63 (a total of 17 pounds), showing her commitment to a healthier life.
On August 30, roughly two years post-amputation, Diaz underwent gastric sleeve surgery at Jackson West.
She is now 48 pounds down and attending physical therapy to help her walk on her prosthetic legs again. Her goal is to lose 20 to 25 more pounds, drive, and regain full use of her prosthetics. Diaz also became a licensed esthetician and opened her own spa, allowing her to work in her wheelchair.
“My life has changed completely post-bariatric surgery. I feel like the person I was before my accident,” Diaz said. “Waking up every day is a blessing, and my daughters can see that. It’s incredibly important to me that they see me as a strong, confident woman who has not allowed my disability to stop me.”
Diaz’s follow-up care includes routine nutritional visits and a one-year post-operation check-in with Dr. Miranda.
“I want to be the self-sufficient woman I once was and now I’m not concerned about finding my way back to her because this team showed me that I can be that person again,” Diaz said. “Thank you to Dr. Miranda and the entire bariatric team for this second shot at life. You guys made it possible for me to come back to my family and friends.”