Mom is no longer sidelined

Felicia Sumareh gets a high-five from her foster son, Austin Woods, 10, as she runs laps to warm up in tae kwon do class Tuesday. Sumareh underwent gastric-bypass surgery to lose weight and be more active with her five children. - Matt Brashears/Renton Reporter
Felicia Sumareh gets a high-five from her foster son, Austin Woods, 10, as she runs laps to warm up in tae kwon do class Tuesday. Sumareh underwent gastric-bypass surgery to lose weight and be more active with her five children.
— image credit: Matt Brashears/Renton Reporter

Bariatric surgery has her playing with kids

Until recently, Felicia Sumareh of Fairwood could only do one thing when she took her five children to a roller rink or amusement park: watch.

“They would ask me, ‘Mom, do you want do this, do you want to do that,” says the 40-year-old single mother. “We would go to roller rinks and I would just sit down.”

Amusement parks weren’t any better. The safety bars were too tight.

“I never could get on the rides; I would have to watch them,” Sumareh says.

Getting on the floor to play board games or change diapers was even difficult for Sumareh.

But not since Oct. 22, when she had gastric-bypass surgery at Washington Bariatric & Weight Loss Center at Valley Medical Center.

The 5-foot-6-inch Sumareh has since lost about 70 pounds, going from 265 before surgery to 193. Her goal weight is 140. Her clothing size has dropped from size 26 to 14.

There’s a huge gap in those numbers. But Sumareh doesn’t much notice.

“Even now, when I look in the mirror, I see plus-size,” she says. “I don’t visually see any difference in me. Everyone around me notices I’m different, but I don’t see no difference. I see the same. But I know inches are coming off, based on my clothes.”

What Sumareh does notice is her increased energy. She works out at the gym at least five days a week, and practices tae kwon do with her children three days a week.

“Now I can skate,” Sumareh says. “I can ride bikes. We go mountain biking. I’m just able to do more.”

Sumareh’s increased energy is appreciated by her five children, ages 2 to 13.

“To me, nothing seems like a big difference,” says Austin, 10.

Still, he says he’s happy his mom is losing weight.

“I kind of like it,” he says.

But Austin and his brother and three sisters always praised their mother’s looks.

“My children said I was beautiful,” Sumareh says.

They protested when she told them she was getting gastric-bypass surgery

They said, ‘Why mom? You’re fine just the way you are,’” Sumareh recalls. “But then they saw the weight come off, and said, ‘Mom you look skinny.’ But then they saw I had more energy.”

Aside from more energy, gastric-bypass has cured Sumareh’s diabetes and lowered her blood pressure and cholesterol.

Relieving medical problems and improving life expectancy is the point of gastric-bypass and lap-band surgery, the other type of weight-loss surgery offered at Valley Medical Center.

Gastric bypass is more invasive than lap-band surgery, but allows for more weight loss — up to 70 to 75 percent of excess weight, compared to lap band’s 50 to 60 percent.

In gastric bypass, the stomach is divided into two parts: the upper the size of a ping-pong ball and the lower the size of a Nerf football. A segment of small intestine is attached to the upper pouch, which allows food to bypass most of the stomach, reducing the amount of food that can be eaten.

In lap-band surgery, an inflatable ring is stretched around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch that controls the flow of food. The ring can be adjusted to shrink or expand the size of the pouch.

Both surgeries are intended as “last resort” weight-loss methods.

Gastric bypass was Sumareh’s last resort.

“I think I’ve been overweight pretty much all my life,” she says. “As my mom said, I came out big.”

Her weight started going up and down in her 20s, and the weight stayed after she had her first child, Dylen, 13. Diets didn’t work.

“It was a rollercoaster, up and down,” she says. “I lost weight, and then it would come back. It was just a rollercoaster.”

Juggling five children, early childhood education classes and a job as an assistant director at a Seattle daycare center made keeping track of meals difficult.

“The reason I gained weight is I didn’t eat properly,” she says. “I would skip meals. Sometimes I didn’t eat.”

Since having her stomach divided, Sumareh can eat only half a cup to one cup of food in one sitting. She eats six meals a day. She and her youngest, Sincere, 2, split plates when they eat out.

“I’ll be in trouble when she gets older ‘cause she won’t want to split no more food with me,” Sumareh laughs.

Sumareh’s portions are limited, but not her food choices.

“The only thing lately is carrots,” she says. “I’ve tried them shredded, cooked. But that’s the only thing that’s giving me a problem at the moment.”

Dylen helps Sumareh cook at home.

“He says, ‘Mom can you eat this?’ Or, ‘Is this too much?’” Sumareh says.

All her children have helped, especially during the few weeks just after surgery.

“It brought me and 10-year-old Austin closer,” Sumareh says of surgery. “He didn’t like to see me in discomfort. He wanted to make sure he was doing his chores. Then when mommy got better all was back to normal,” she laughs. “But he was making sure all the girls were doing what they were supposed to do. That was neat to watch.”

Sumareh calls her children her support group.

“The whole thing has been like a family affair,” she says.

Family time has increased since Sumareh’s surgery.

“I feel like we’re having more quality time instead of rush time,” she says. “And my kids never say anything, but I think they’re prouder (of me) when we go out in public.”

So is Sumareh happy with the results of gastric bypass so far?

“Yes,” she says. “I think my kids are, too. Now they can’t keep up with me.”

Emily Garland can be reached at or (425) 255-3484, ext. 5052.

Weight-loss center

Washington Bariatric & Weight Loss Center is at the north end of the Valley Medical Center campus, at 4033 Talbot Road S., Suite 560, in Renton. For more information, call 425-251-5111 or visit

The next free informational seminar on weight-loss surgery at Valley Medical is on the first floor of the Medical Arts Building on June 4 from 6-7 p.m. Call 425-251-5111 to register.

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