Strangers Raise $50,000 for 12-Year-Old's Weight Loss Surgery
byKaitlin StanfordDec 31, 2013
Alexis Shapiro didn't always have a weight problem. In fact, just a few short years ago, she was a happy and healthy kid. But now at just 12 years old, she weighs an alarming 200 pounds and suffers from type 2 diabetes. And as anyone who's ever been an overweight 12-year-old girl—or make that any 12-year-old-girl—knows, it isn't easy. The last few years have been pretty hard ones for Alexis.
So how did it get this far?
It all started back when Alexis was 9. After developing a rare yet benign brain tumor called a craniopharyngioma—which only affects 1 child per every million, per year—she underwent surgery to remove it. But in the process, her hypothalamus and pituitary glands were damaged. Adding to matters, she then developed hyperphagia and hypothalamic obesity, which causes the body to think it's starving, even when it's not.
It wasn't long before Alexis inevitably began to put on weight at an incredible rate.
To help combat the weight gain, her parents have tried for the last three years to monitor her calories and her exercise. But it hasn't been easy. Alexis's insatiable cravings have even led them to padlock the fridge and cupboards.
Finally this year, Alexis's parents Ian and Jenny began to think about gastric bypass surgery. The only problem was the $50,000 price tag that comes along with it. After the family's insurance denied their request for surgery (citing Jenny's age as a factor), the Shapiros realized they were going to have to foot the bill some other way.
Enter, GoFundMe.com. Last summer, the parents set up a page sharing Alexis's story and asked for any contributions, no matter how small.
"Alexis has gained about 140lbs in not even 2yrs.," Jenny shared on the website. "It has been heartbreaking for her and for us. She can not do the things she used to love ... So I am seeking bariatric surgery for her. We talked about it with Alexis and she wants to do it even though she knows it will be hard work. But, she is used to hard work."
Incredibly, since that very first post on July 22, 2013, the "Hope for Alexis" webpage has taken in over $73,000—and counting—for the little 6th grader.
“My goodness! It’s crazy,” said Jenny recently, of all of the positive response. “Alexis really likes it. I think she feels like people aren’t looking at her anymore and people are rooting for her.”
And according to NBC News, now that the funds are there, doctors say she could be heading in for surgery in six weeks.
“If nothing else, we have what’s required for the hospital,” Jenny Shapiro said. “If I need to make payments or whatever, then I will.”
Alexis could stand to lose between 20 percent and 30 percent of her body mass as a result of the surgery. But another big perk is that it would likely put an end to all that nagging hunger she constantly feels, as a result of her brain sending the wrong signals to her belly.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work,” Jenny told reporters. “We know that it’s not going to be 'have the surgery and, yay, everything’s fixed.' But it’s a start.”