The Doctors: 12-Year-Old Girl Can’t Stop Eating
Alexis is a 12-year-old girl that has gained 150 pounds in two years and she’s still gaining two pounds a week from her over-eating. However, her over-eating is due to a neurological condition. She was featured on The Doctors.
When Alexis was 9 years old, she started suffering from headaches and her growth rate slowed. That’s when an MRI revealed she had a brain tumor close to the hypothalamus, the gland responsible for regulating appetite. After successfully removing the tumor, Alexis’s brain was damaged. It constantly thinks she’s starving, so Alexis literally cannot stop eating.
Going into surgery, Alexis weighed 52 pounds. Now, she weighs 200 pounds. “I want the best quality of life for Alexis. She’s trying her best. And for her to live with so much weight on her little body, you know, it’s not okay,” Alexis’s mom Jenny said.
The Doctors: Brain Tumor Removal Causes Insatiable Appetite
Jenny and Alexis’s father Ian joined The Doctors in person. Jenny said that she couldn’t believe that there wasn’t another solution for Alexis. Doctors have said there’s no way to fix Alexis’s brain. Jenny said that they’ve had to make set times for eating, but Alexis is constantly hungry, so as a mother, she feels terrible she can’t help her more.
Ian said the doctor told them this was a possible side effect of removing the tumor, but they didn’t think of it as a real possibility. “You’re so happy and so concerned with the surgery for the tumor that that’s what you’re focused on. You’re focused on the fact that they successfully removed a life-threatening tumor. This other stuff doesn’t really matter until that happens,” Ian said.
Jenny said that Alexis has asked them to take down all the pictures of her from the walls, because she realized she didn’t look like that anymore.
The Doctors: What The Hypothalamus Does
Dr. Travis explained that the hypothalamus, the gland that was damaged by the removal of the tumor, regulates everything. It regulates things like temperature, hunger, and metabolism. Dr. Travis called it a “thermostat” for a lot of things. Normally, the hypothalamus gets signals that tells it that it’s full. In Alexis’s case, her brain doesn’t receive these signals anymore. So she’s hungry all the time, no matter how much she’s actually had to eat.
Complications involved with this include ravenous hunger, slower metabolic rate, decreased growth hormone and thyroid hormone, insomnia, and decreased energy. Dr. Jim Sears said that just one of these complications could cause uncontrollable weight gain. Alexis has all of these, which is why she’s gained weight at the rate she has and why she now has Type 2 Diabetes.
The Doctors: Obese Child Self-Esteem
Jenny said her biggest fear was that the weight gain would continue and ultimately take Alexis’s life. Jenny said that Alexis’s self-esteem is not good. She goes to counseling and Jenny said that Alexis has said that she doesn’t want to live.
“And as hard as it is to hear your child say that, I understand. I know that she is in a lot of pain and she suffers every day, so I feel for her. But of course I don’t want her to feel that way,” Jenny said.
Jenny said that following the tumor removal surgery, her daughter is different and they’ve had to try to get to know her anew.
The Doctors: Surgery To Stop The Uncontrollable Weight Gain
Jenny said that after months and months of research and talking to doctors, she finally found someone to help. He had an evaluation of her and thought she was a good candidate. So they put in a request to their health insurance and they denied her. They said Alexis wasn’t old enough for the surgery.
The surgeon Jenny found had used gastric bypass surgery to help kids lose weight in these situations. Jenny and Ian tried to appeal and Alexis’s story went viral. Jenny said she couldn’t believe the outpouring of support.
The Doctors: Gastric Bypass Surgery For Uncontrollable Weight Gain?
Ultimately, the insurance company granted Alexis’s request. Dr. Thomas Inge, the pediatric surgeon that will perform the surgery, explained that this surgery will stop the weight gain and the reason why Alexis is overeating will be counteracted by the surgery. This surgery will have a biochemical basis for affecting the parts of the brain that control hunger and help reduce the hormones that talk to the brain and tell it that the body is hungry.
Then The Doctors brought out Alexis and Dr. Travis told her he was excited to see how she does with the surgery.
Find out how Alexis’s gastric bypass surgery turned out in a later episode.