A 13-year-old Texas girl whose weight ballooned to more than 200 pounds after removal of a brain tumor left her unable to stop eating has lost more than 50 of those pounds following weight-loss surgery.
After doctors removed a benign brain tumor in 2011, Alexis Shapiro of Cibolo developed a condition known as hypothalamic obesity, which left her in a constant state of feeling hungry and caused her to gain more than 140 pounds and become morbidly obese.
When diet and exercise failed to control her weight, her parents began considering surgical options, and finally this year Alexis became one of the youngest patients in the United States to have a procedure known as a sleeve gastrectomy, a process that reduces the size of the stomach and its capacity for holding food.
Surgeons had intended to perform a complete gastric bypass, but noting her enlarged liver they made a decision in the operating room to go with the gastric sleeve, reducing the girl's stomach to 25 percent of its original size.
Seven months on her health has improved to the point that her mother Jenny Shapiro says Alexis has been given her "childhood" back.
"She has had zero hospital stays related to hypothalamic obesity, which is a record since her brain surgery three years ago," her mother said.
Alexis is also off medication she had been taking for diabetes, she said.
When the Shapiro's health insurance refused to cover the surgery because of Alexis' age, the family raised money for the procedure through a GoFundMe account, with donors from around the world eventually giving more than $80,000.
In Alexis' original brain surgery the benign tumor was successfully removed, but the procedure damaged parts of the girl's brain including her hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which are involved in how the body perceives and processes signals coming from the digestive system.
In a posting on a Facebook page where the family has been documenting the young girl's recovery, Jenny Shapiro said Alexis still struggles with her energy levels but can walk the half mile to her school every day.
"She is still scared to try new things that she couldn't do while she was much heavier, but we are trying," her mother wrote.