Sioux Falls, SD
It's estimated that nearly 16 percent of children in the U.S. are obese. And studies show that more than half will carry that weight into their adult years.
But more young adults hope to change that. When diets have failed, many are asking about weight loss surgery. Surgeons say teens can be very good candidates for procedures like gastric bypass.
Friday, 18-year-old Kyla Snelling's life will undergo a major change. As she's wheeled off into the operating room, she knows she'll leave Sanford Hospital with a much smaller stomach.
“We will divide the top part of the stomach from the remainder of the stomach so that the used portion of the stomach is about the size of a chicken egg,” Sanford weight loss surgeon Dr. Dennis Glatt said.
That means after this gastric bypass surgery is over, she'll only be able to eat small, healthy portions.
“Over about a year and a half, she'll lose about 60 to 80 percent of her excess body weight. And we would expect her to keep that off life long," Glatt said
Weight has always been an issue for this high school senior. She was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as a toddler; that means her muscles will continue to get weaker until they essentially stop working.
Because Snelling is in a wheelchair, getting exercise is impossible. And diet after diet just hasn't worked.
“Some of them work for a little while but it's not a long-term thing. It doesn't work that well,” Snelling said.
Before even being considered for gastric bypass, like all patients, Snelling had to meet certain criteria.
Body Mass Index has to be over 35, with health problems associated with obesity and the patient must have failed at a six month diet and exercise program.
Her surgeon says on top of that, patients must be psychologically mature and ready for this life-long change.
“We've done children as young as 15. You know being very selective, finding someone who is insightful and motivated physically,” Glatt said.
Teen patients must also be done growing.
Snelling knows she faces a tough road, but says she's excited to get a new perspective on life.
“You have to eat really small amount and you have to constantly measure everything and watch what you're eating so closely. So it's not gonna be an easy process, but in the end it will be worth it,” Snelling said.
Because of Kyla's mobility, she doesn't know how much she weighs, but hopes to lose over 100 pounds. We'll catch up with her in a few months and show you her progress.