TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Four years ago, medication kept Denise Menendez's Type 2 diabetes under control. Then something changed.
"It was just awful,” she recalled. “I'd get up in the morning and I would feel awful.”
At age 58, she had a stroke when her sugars spiraled out of control. Her left side became numb and weak.
Despite large doses of insulin, her glucose skyrocketed five times the normal level. She only had months to live, according to her doctor.
“He says, ‘I've never treated a patient that has had so much insulin as you and none of it is working, none of it,’" she remembered.
Menendez saw six doctors. Then the seventh opinion from a Miami physician offered Denise and her husband, Mario some hope -- gastric bypass surgery.
“Mario and I looked at each other and said bariatric surgery? I've never heard of such a thing to treat sugar diabetes!"
The reason experts believe it works is because gastric bypass surgery re-routes the intestine, triggering it to produce more glucose transporter molecules to help the body use sugar.
But it doesn't work for everyone. In fact, there's a scoring system to predict who's most likely to benefit.
Because diabetes had damaged Menendez's heart, lungs, bladder, and brain, surgery was risky. Then in September 2018, with no other options, she decided to take a chance and undergo surgery.
Immediately afterward, Denise said, "My sugar started to go down it was like 70, 80, 70, 80, 90, and we were like, this is amazing!”
Before losing her first pound from weight loss surgery, her need for insulin evaporated.
"I haven't had a drop of insulin,” she added. “It's been the best thing in the whole world!"
Two and a half months later Menendez is off all diabetes drugs and has dropped 45 pounds. Her surgery was covered by insurance, but only after she gained weight to meet their minimum BMI of 35.