World's youngest gastric sleeve patient says having risky weightloss surgery at 12 changed her lifeBetsy Sanchez, 14, has slimmed down from 15st to 10st following operationControversial procedure carried out by her uncleFamily say losing weight stopped bullies taunting the teenager
02:02 GMT, 13 June 2012
The world's youngest gastric sleeve patient claims having risky weightloss surgery at 12 years old transformed her life.
Betsy Sanchez, from Coahuila in Mexico, is delighted to have slimmed down from 15 to ten stone since having 70 per cent of her stomach removed.
Having now taken up exercise for the first time, 14-year-old Betsy is no longer a target for cruel bullies who teased her about her size.
Radical change: Betsy Sanchez before the weightloss surgery, left, and after shedding five stone, right
Active lifestyle: Betsy, who was morbidly obese at 15st, is now 10st and enjoys horse-riding and spending time with friends
The change took place thanks to the her uncle, Dr Guillermo Alvarez, a bariatric surgeon who carries out the controversial permanent weightloss operations on adolescents.
Betsy's mother Ana, the doctor's second cousin, says that taking the drastic step was the only way to stop her daughter following the
same heartbreaking path as Georgia Davis, the 19-year-old British girl whose food
addiction caused her to balloon to 63st.
'Diet and exercise didn't work for Betsy – she was addicted to food, only surgery would work,' said 39-year-old Mrs Sanchez.
'If Georgia had an operation at 12, she'd be happy and healthy now. She's lost years of her life. She might be too big now to safely have the operation – which proves it's sometimes better to have it young.'
Food obsessed: Betsy, pictured with her mother Ana, struggled with her weight from the age of four
Controversial procedure: Betsy's surgery was carried out by her uncle Dr Guillermo Alvarez, left
Dr Alzarez says having surgery is
helpful for children who are struggling to lose weight because having a
much smaller stomach restricts their food intake.
claims the surgery not only benefits a child's health – helping prevent
medical issues such as diabetes and liver disease – but improves their
confidence and allows for a more active childhood and happier school
Dr Alvarez, who
receives patients from across the USA, Britain and Europe, has since
operated on other children, but sets a lower age limit of 12.
Betsy said: 'When my uncle said he could make me thinner I was so excited. I can still eat whatever I want but smaller portions.
'I can have McDonald's, but much smaller portions, only two chicken nuggets and chips.
'Out of control': Betsy at five and seven. The little girl weighed four stone by three years old and was 'always hungry', according to her family
'I'm much happier. I now go horse-riding and I have lots of friends.'
Betsy's weight problems began at the age of three when she started asking for extra portions and demanding snacks between meals, causing her weight to soar to four stone.
WHAT IS A GASTRIC SLEEVE
A gastric sleeve is one of the newer types of weightloss operations.
The stomach is permanently reduced to about 25 per cent of its original size, by surgical removal of a large portion of the stomach.
The open edges are then attached together (often with surgical staples) to form a sleeve or tube with a banana shape.
It may be appropriate for people who can't return as often for the follow-up visits required by gastric band procedures.
A gastric band is a silicone band with an inflatable inner collar that is fitted around the upper stomach to restrict food intake, creating a small pouch and a narrow passage to the lower stomach.
This passage delays the emptying of food from the pouch and causes a feeling of fullness. The band can be tightened or loosened over time.
Mrs Sanchez admitted she and her furniture dealer husband Guillermo, 44, kept treats in the house for their two other children, aged 13 and nine.
She said: 'Betsy would have four cookies and four crackers between meals. If I tried to stop her, she'd have a tantrum. She was always hungry.
'I tried serving healthy food and cutting portions, but Betsy was out of control.'
Betsy's parents took her to see a paediatrician and she was tested for an underactive thyroid, but no medical reason was found for her weight issues. Nutritionists and psychologists also failed to find a solution.
The 14-year-old said: 'When I asked mum for seconds she gave in. I used to comfort eat because I was bullied.'
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Demanding child: Betsy, pictured aged seven and eight, would have tantrums if she was not allowed second helpings and snacks
Happy teenager: Betsy admits she used to comfort eat because she felt miserable about her weight
Confident: Betsy has gone from 15st to 10st and enjoys activities such as horse-riding for the first time
He eventually operated on Betsy in 2008, after studies showed the benefit of surgery on young people. Betsy is believed to be the youngest patient ever to undergo the gastric sleeve.
'It is very controversial to operate on children,' said Dr Alvarez. 'But I see the benefits of helping children in cases where parents have tried everything but nothing else seems to control their eating problem.
'It has changed Betsy's life. She now goes to a new school where no-one even knows she used to be overweight.'
Mrs Sanchez added: 'Betsy is like a different girl. She is still shy, but she is blossoming into a beautiful young woman, making friends, and enjoying her teenage years.
'I think surgery is definitely worth considering in some cases for children like her.'