For adolescents who are diagnosed with obesity, losing weight can be extra challenging, and the stigma associated with being overweight can be devastating for anyone, regardless of age.
The bariatric program at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital offers surgery for patients under 18-years old who have been unsuccessful in trying to lose weight on their own or are experiencing severe weight-related complications.
Ally Brown’s safe space is at home with her family. The school environment was often challenging for the now 18-year old.
“I was the fat girl that no one wanted to be friends with, so that was really tough. The bullying and the constant comments, and people didn’t understand, I was doing everything I could. I was always on diets, seeing nutritionists, and then an athlete, said Ally.
Ally said she has struggled with her weight since she was very young.
She added, “At age three they started noticing I was gaining weight faster than I should have. At age five, they diagnosed me with a metabolic disorder.”
Dr. Pearl Ma is a bariatric surgeon at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital.
“Some kids actually have a genetic and biologic disposition… They are fighting against their metabolic set point and so they are unable to lose that weight for long term,” explained Dr. Ma.
The obesity rate in Fresno County is one of the highest in the state.
She continued, “As we know, obesity rates are increasing with adults, we’re also seeing that within the adolescent or the kid population, and also increasing rate of medical problems like fatty liver, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint problems too. And so unfortunately, those rates are increasing… We know that if we can correct the obesity early on, it shows that even when they’re in adulthood, they don’t have the same risks anymore.”
After much thought and research, and with the consent of her parents, Ally decided last year at the age of 17 to undergo bariatric surgery.
Ally commented, “I was so ready, and I think that really helped a lot, was just me being ready for this, being ready to make the change and knowing everything I could know about this surgery. And Fresno Bariatric did a great job on educating me so I could be the best version of myself I could be after this.”
Dr. Ma stated, “I did a sleeve gastrectomy, and that’s where we took away two thirds of the stomach away and made it into like a banana shape, and so food moves through faster into the stomach, into the bowel, activates the gut hormones that help reset metabolism and ultimately that’s what it’s about.”
Dr. Ma said if any parents are thinking about bariatric surgery for their child, they should consult with their child’s pediatrician or reach out to Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital for more information on its adolescent bariatric program.
“It has to be a body mass index or height and weight percentage that they have to hit before they are a candidate for surgery. But also, there are other medical diseases that they may have so we look at, those too like the diabetes, the high blood pressure, fatty liver, such like that, sleep apnea, so we look at a combination of the medical problems, as well as their weight to see if they’re a candidate for the surgery,” ended Dr. Ma.
Ally said she’s on the road to a healthy life and wants to share her story so other teens know they’re not alone in their struggle with obesity.
She conclued, “Confidence has gone up an extreme amount. I’m not scared to leave the house because of my size.”
For more information about bariatric surgery, click here.