Sheffield mum dies after weight-loss surgery

Michael Slater, whose wife Joanne died earlier this month
Michael Slater, whose wife Joanne died earlier this month
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A Sheffield mum who underwent weight-loss surgery died aged 38 – from an illness doctors believe was triggered by the operation.

Joanne Slater, from Stannington, had a gastric bypass to control a hormone imbalance, which medics thought 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.

Initially, the results were impressive, as Joanne lost half her body weight and gave birth to a longed-for daughter, Lily-Mai.

However, 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.

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: “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, a former City School pupil, met Michael when they worked at a care home in Endcliffe, 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.”

A gastric bypass makes the stomach smaller, meaning patients feel full more quickly, and reduces the amount of calories absorbed in the bowel.

Joanne had the procedure on the NHS at Thornbury Hospital, Ranmoor, in 2005.

Michael said: “She did very well initially, it couldn’t have gone better.

“She was bright, bubbly, the life and soul of the party.”

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.”

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.”

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 across the Rivelin Valley.

Donations were collected for baby charity Tommy’s and future fundraising events are planned.