Julie Heidelberg


Plant City Bariatric Surgery Patient Stands by Weight Loss Surgery Choice

Statement from Karen Gillman, author of “It’s Never Too Late”

TAMPA, Fla. (August 4, 2015) – A recent ABC Action News story regarding Carla Laster, a patient of Mexican physician Dr. Mario Almanza, has brought me deep sadness.

My heart and prayers go out to Ms. Laster’s family and the other families in this news story for both the loss of their loved ones and the loss of what their lives might have been like after weight loss surgery.

In 2004, I researched weight loss surgery options for myself. It was challenging because many insurance policies, including mine, do not cover weight loss surgery, and being a self-pay patient required me to seek out less expensive options. Ultimately, I found an affordable physician in Mexico whose patients had great results. He performed my surgery, as one of many, and the procedure changed my life forever in the most positive ways.

In light of this recent news story, I am compelled to point out that not all surgeons working outside of the U.S. can be faulted for one physician’s mistakes, and weight loss surgery in general should not be portrayed as dangerous outside of the known risks every surgeon should convey to their patients.

After writing my book, “It’s Never Too Late,” which details my own weight loss surgery journey, I started engaging people on social media who wanted to share their own stories, journeys and struggles with obesity. These interactions have inspired me, as they are encouraging, heartfelt and meaningful. These testimonials, wishes and dreams cannot be discounted, even in light of these reported tragedies.

As a member of the Obesity Action Coalition and an Apollo patient advisory board member, I am deeply saddened over these losses of life, because weight loss surgery has enhanced and changed my life in ways I could not even imagine.

My personal goal is to support people before, during and after their decision to address their obesity, and give them hope. While we all grieve over the loss of life of these brave individuals, we cannot lose sight of ways we can improve our own lives, and live them to the fullest in honor of those who cannot.

About Karen Gillman

Karen Gillman, a local author and business woman, was recently named to the Apollo Patient Advisory Board for the international company Apollo Endosurgery, Inc., makers of the LAP-BAND® System.

Gillman had weight loss surgery in 2004, opting for the LAP-BAND® System, and since then has shed more than 145 pounds. Her recent book, “It’s Never Too Late,” was written to share her battle with obesity and explain how she overcame this battle with the LAP-BAND®.

Gillman’s book is available on If you would like to follow Karen Gillman on social media, you will find her giving tips and encouragement on Facebook/aftertheband and Twitter/aftertheband. You can also visit her web site at for book sale information.