Katrena Rockeymore

Katrena Rockeymore

Risa Teate calls her 25-year-old daughter Kaylee Gallegos her bestie.

Kaylee Gallegos

Risa Teate calls her 25-year-old daughter Kaylee Gallegos her bestie.

The mother and daughter live together in Coconut Creek. Kaylee, who has Down syndrome, is a happy and loving companion who likes singing, dancing, reading, fashion, and arts and crafts. She also loves playing with reborn baby dolls and shopping.

In October of 2022, Risa became concerned about the impact her daughter’s weight was having on her health. Kaylee was overweight, borderline diabetic and had no energy. She even had trouble walking up the 16 steps to reach the family’s apartment.

Risa, who had bariatric surgery several years previously, wanted to see if Kaylee could experience the same benefits that she did.

While Down syndrome and mental delays are not by themselves restrictions for bariatric surgery when patients have the proper support system, several doctors declined to take Kaylee as a patient.

Then, after a friend recommended Broward Health Imperial Point, the duo met Chi Zhang, M.D., a bariatric surgeon with the Broward Health Physician Group. “Kaylee was a unique patient for our program,” said Dr. Zhang. “While prior programs viewed her Down syndrome as a barrier to bariatric surgery, we did not feel that should exclude her from the health benefits of bariatric surgery. Kaylee underwent psychosocial evaluation and demonstrated high functional understanding of bariatric surgery, and her family support was capable of meeting her post-operative needs. She has done fantastic after her surgery and we look forward to her continued improvement in health.”

Kaylee and her mom went through the hospital’s standard bariatric surgery program with some additional requirements before Kaylee was cleared for surgery. Dr. Zhang performed a successful robotic gastric sleeve surgery on Kaylee at Broward Health Imperial Point in March 2023.

“Broward Health has been amazing. Dr. Zhang and the whole staff were just amazing, they met us with open arms,” said Risa. “They walked us through everything there. It's been outrageously wonderful.”

Since her surgery, Kaylee has been compliant with the program, going to the gym regularly and watching what she eats, enabling her to lose 60 pounds in nine months. Risa says since the surgery, her daughter looks good, feels good and has more energy than she ever had.

“Kaylee loves the gym. She'd stay there all day. We usually go for about two hours every day or every other day, and she works out well. She does all her reps on her weights and she knows her machines,” said Risa. “She hasn't had any kind of a problem.”

“I think this was the best choice for Kaylee. She just flourished under the care she received from Dr. Zhang and all the therapists and everyone who was part of her treatment,” said Risa. “Her dietician Emilio Pena has been there for us to answer any questions all along the way. I feel very blessed to be able to have gone through this journey with her.”

When asked about her experience with Dr. Zhang, Kaylee says, “I love Dr. Zhang. He changed my whole life.”

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