A 12-year-old Texas girl is in desperate need of gastric bypass surgery after brain damage left her with a rare and serious condition.
During surgery to remove a rare brain tumor two years ago, Alexis Shapiro’s hypothalamus was damaged.
“She has no function of her hypothalamus, or pituitary gland,” her family wrote. “This has left her with several life threatening conditions. Most we control with replacement hormones and medication. However, the one thing we have not been able to control is something called hypothalamic obesity.”
Now Alexis is left feeling hungry all the time, no matter how much she eats. At 4-feet 7-inches tall she weighs 198 pounds.
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Despite being on a strict diet, she continues to gain weight. In the last three months, she’s developed Type 2 diabetes and was hospitalized for a kidney infection.
Doctors suggested gastric bypass surgery, but the family insurance provider, TRICARE, denied coverage for the $50,000 surgery this month.
“It just keeps going up and up,” said her mother, Jenny Shapiro, said of her daughter's weight. “She desperately needs this. I feel like she will die if she does not get this surgery.”
The insurer says Alexis is just too young. She must be 18 years old or have reached a point where there is no longer bone growth.
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Because a length of the digestive system is no longer used, one of the complications from gastric bypass is that the body may not absorb certain vitamins any longer. Patients must follow a strict diet and sometimes supplements given by doctors, otherwise organ damage and bone diseases can occur and may not be detected for years.
Instead of appealing the denial, the family turned to GoFundMe five months ago where they started a campaign to raise money for the surgery.
As of today, they’ve raised $52,296.
"Oh my!!! I can't believe this! We are so grateful. I am going to contact the hospital on Monday. To find out if this will cover all the costs,” wrote her mother. “Thank you to everyone who cares. Also I will set up a PO box for cards and letters. Alexis would love to get mail.”