A mum who gave birth to a much longed-for daughter thanks to a gastric bypass operation has died from an illness doctors believe was triggered by the surgery.
Joanne Slater underwent the op in 2005 to control a hormone imbalance, which medics thought had caused her to gain weight and prevented her from getting pregnant.
The insurance worker had suffered three miscarriages, and tried dieting unsuccessfully before going under the knife as a last resort when she reached 23 stone.
The operation was initially a success and Joanne lost half her body weight before giving birth to daughter Lily-Mai.
But she later developed serious nutritional deficiencies, as well as a rare and deadly listeria infection – discovered in her blood when she was admitted to intensive care at the Northern General Hospital in her home city of Sheffield.
The 38-year-old went into cardiac arrest brought on by pneumonia, suffering devastating brain damage which led to the decision to switch off her life-support earlier this month.
Michael, Joanne’s husband, said her death was ‘such a shock’ and highlighted the potential risks involved with bariatric surgery.
The cancer nurse, aged 47, said: “Michael, who married Joanne in Edinburgh in 2006, said: “To give her the opportunity to have a child when she had lost all hope of ever having one was like a huge carrot hanging in front of her.
“I just wish that she had managed to lose that weight some other way – I wish it more than anything in the world.
“But unfortunately that wasn’t the case. She tried absolutely everything; diets, exercise – everything.
“When Joanne had Lily-Mai we expected it would be the start of a long and happy family life together.
“I don’t want to pin any blame on the operation because they did their best and we did manage to conceive as a direct result of the operation.
“But my daughter doesn’t have a mummy because of the operation that gave her life.
“I have mixed emotions about the operation. I just wish she could have found another way to lose the weight.
“For anybody considering this surgery, my advice would be not to take the decision lightly.”
As Joanne slimmed down the couple took up active pastimes such as dancing and walking, and went on exotic holidays including a trip to Africa in 2006, the same year as their marriage.
Lily-Mai was born three months prematurely in 2009.
Michael said: “Joanne was so proud. She was fantastic, everything you would want in a mum. But unfortunately her health got worse.”
He told how Joanne’s weight loss became too extreme, and she complained of muscle pains and tiredness.
Doctors prescribed supplements for a lack of nutrients such as copper and vitamin D, judged to be a side-effect of the surgery, but her health continued to decline.
Michael said: “The listeria really wiped her out.
“I asked the consultants if they had any idea how it got there and they said no.
“It’s a rare infection, they could only say it was probably related to the surgery.”
She spent Christmas in hospital, and went into cardiac arrest on New Year’s Eve.
“Medics managed to revive her, but her brain was severely damaged by lack of oxygen.
Joanne’s parents Rita and David, and her brother Doyle, gathered at her bedside when she died on Friday, January 3.
Michael said: “I said thank you to her for the wonderful life we had together.
“When Joanne had her operation, it was still relatively new, and doctors are now finding more patients developing problems further down the line.
“It’s difficult - if she’d never had the operation, we’d never have had Lily-Mai.”
Joanne met Michael when they worked at a care home, and the couple tried for a baby for years.
Michael said: “We’d almost given up hope. You name a diet, Joanne had tried it. She had hormone problems and was given the opportunity to have an operation.”
The funeral was held on Wednesday at Christ Church Stannington, followed by burial at Crookes Cemetery - which Michael and Lily-Mai, now four, can see every day from their home.
Donations were collected for baby charity Tommy’s and future fundraising events are planned.