12-Year-Old Gets Obesity Surgery to Treat Perpetual Hunger (Video)

Tuesday, 25 Mar 2014 10:26 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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A 12-year-old Texas girl underwent obesity surgery last week to help correct a rare surgical side effect that left her perpetually hungry.

Alexis Shapiro, of Cibolo, ballooned to more than 200 pounds after a surgery to remove a benign brain tumor two years ago damaged her hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates weight, appetite, and mood. As a result, she developed hypothalamic obesity and panhypopituitarism, a complex metabolic side effect, according to NBC News.

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Despite a strict diet of 900-1,400 calories a day, Shapiro continued to gain weight, sometimes as much as 2 pounds a week.

"It's continued to get harder and harder," Alexis' mom, Jenny Shapiro, told Fox News last year. "Every day there's something new that she can't do. She's hurting. She's uncomfortable. It's just a struggle."

The Shapiro family's insurance company, TRICARE, initially declined to cover Alexis' obesity surgery because she was under 18. But, with the help of more than $84,000 in donations via the fundraising site GoFundMe.com, the Shapiros finally got the OK.

Shapiro was then scheduled for a vagotomy, a procedure to remove part of the vagus nerve, and a gastric bypass surgery Friday at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"I hope this . . . will be the beginning of the end of all of her pain and insecurities. I hope she won’t have to endure another day feeling like she is starving," Jenny Shapiro wrote in a blog post on the Cincinnati Children's Hospital website last week before the surgery. "Her sister and brother look forward to her being able to play with them again."

Though doctors had to scrap their original plan because of Shapiro's enlarged liver, they did perform a sleeve gastrectomy, which is "still expected to help [Alexis] lose weight," according to NBC News. The other surgeries will reportedly be scheduled at a later date.

Because of the increased interest in Shapiro's case, Cincinnati Children's Hospital live-tweeted the girl's surgery.

Here's a segment on Alexis that aired on the "Today" show last year:


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