Strangers' donations pour in for 12-year old's lifesaving obesity surgery
When their insurance company declined coverage, a Texas family took to public fundraising to save their daughter.
Tue, Dec 31, 2013 at 11:32 AM
Alexis Shapiro, right, and her mother appear on NBC News. (Snapshot/NBC News)
Twelve-year old Alexis Shapiro, of Cibolo, Texas, has gained 140 pounds in less than two years. She continues to gain weight at the rate of two pounds a week. She has constant cravings and can eat an entire jar of peanut butter in one sitting if left to her own devices; however she is limited to as few as 900 calories per day and the her parents have, on occasion, padlocked the kitchen cabinets.
The cause of Alexis’ strange affliction is called hypothalamic obesity, the result of a brain surgery she underwent when she was nine. While the removal of the benign brain tumor was successful, it resulted in damage to her hypothalamus and pituitary gland, two organs responsible for managing energy, hunger and weight.
The disorder she is left with makes her gain tremendous amounts of weight, even though her body thinks she is famished. Understandably, she has developed Type 2 diabetes and other health problems in the past two years. Doctors say gastric bypass weight-loss surgery is the only thing that can help Alexis, but the U.S. military, which provides her family’s health insurance, says it won’t pay for the operation because Alexis is too young, reports NBC News.
Although they can appeal the insurance company’s decision, her doctors say that the process could take too long; so Alexis’ parents, Jenny and Ian Shapiro, took matters into their own hands.
Last summer, they started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money; yet the donations lingered. But when NBC News reported on the story recently, the dollars began pouring in.
As of the end of the year, funding has exceeded the $50,000 goal by tens of thousands of dollars; in addition to a handful of anonymous philanthropists who have pledged to help.
Dr. Thomas H. Inge, an expert in pediatric obesity at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said that now that the funding is in place, Alexis could be scheduled for surgery within six weeks. The surgery could help Alexis lose up to 30 percent of her body mass, Inge said, as well as potentially ease the misfiring between her brain and gut that makes her feel the need to constantly eat.
The family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of goodwill and generosity, Jenny Shapiro said.
“You all have shown her that dreams can come true and that the rude comments out in public can be ignored because she has so many people supporting her and rooting for her!” Shapiro wrote in a comment on the fundraising page. “Thank you oh so very much!”
NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports on the story in the video below:
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