Archives For Childhood Obesity

Click here to read the full story

JoNel Aleccia NBC News

Cibolo, Tx., December 11. 2013: Alexis Shapiro, 12, had a brain tumor removed three years ago, when she was a normal-sized 9-year-old. Ever since the ...

Ilana Panich-Linsman / for NBC News
Alexis Shapiro, 12, of Cibolo, Texas, is likely to get life-saving obesity surgery within eight weeks after military health insurance officials reversed a decision denying the operation because they said she was too young.

A 12-year-old Texas girl who gained more than 140 pounds after a rare complication following brain surgery will have a weight-loss operation covered by U.S. military health insurance, her mother said Friday. 

Alexis Shapiro could be scheduled for gastric bypass surgery within eight weeks, after TRICARE, the military insurer, reversed an earlier decision to deny the surgery because the girl was too young. 

“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Jenny Shapiro, 34, of Cibolo, Texas. “I’m just so happy.” 

NBC News couldn’t immediately reach TRICARE representatives, but Jenny Shapiro said that a case manager called her with the news late Friday. The reversal came less than a week after NBC News first reported the story. 

In the meantime, well-wishers donated more than $78,000 to an online fund to help the girl, who suffers from a rare disorder that makes her gain massive amounts weight even as her body thinks it’s starving. 

The problem started in 2011 after Alexis, then a normal 9-year-old, had surgery to remove a rare benign brain tumor, which wound up damaging her hypothalamus and pituitary gland, two organs that regulate weight and appetite. 

Since then, she’s gained at least two pounds a week, climbing to nearly 200 pounds on 4-foot-7 frame, despite strict diet and exercise. At times, her parents have had to padlock kitchen cupboards because of her severe food cravings caused by the disorder. 

Dr. Thomas Inge, a pediatric obesity expert at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, says that gastric bypass surgery will stop the weight gain, help Alexis lose her extra weight and curb the food cravings. 

Jenny Shapiro emphasized her gratitude for the donations and said the money would pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance and for travel from Texas to Ohio. Any remaining will be used to help other children with similar problems, she said. 

“I just want to do what’s right for everybody,” she added. 

As I read the story about Alexis Shapiro, 12, of Cibolo, Texas and her parents, Ian and Jenny Shapiro, battle to obtain surgery to have a benign tumor removed from their daughters brain so that she won’t eat herself to death sickened me.  I suffer from a great deal of my own neurological issues and have friends who were literally walking dead until they had life saving surgery of other kinds.  I’m sure most people are well aware of just how serious any brain tumor can be whether it is benign or malignant.  Tumors obstruct vital parts in the brain and can and will cause severe dysfunction on any part of the brain it wants to latch itself onto.  I’m by no means speaking as a doctor, just a patient with my own experiences.

I question how any insurance company such as “Tricare” would not find a way to work around their bariatric surgery rule based on the severity of a patients symptoms, in this case, Alexis Shapiro’s. It is my hope that whatever powers that be will open their eyes to the needs of young Alexis. Many other patients have thrived once receiving this surgery and their are more than enough documented cases reflected in the NBC article “Obese, but starving: Girl, 12, denied weight-loss surgery for rare illness” for them to refer to. I would like to see a change made by all insurance companies whereby they are required to make changes on a case by case basis in their rulings so that no child’s life hangs in the balance because of a simple age rule. Disease does not care how young or old you are, it takes its victims as it chooses and no one should be left powerless to fight that battle, especially when a child is involved.

I wish the Shapiro family luck in their search for help for their daughter Alexis.

Felina Silver Robinson