The scene: A 12-year-old who is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds undergoes liposuction to lose weight.
She then gets a tummy tuck. She diets off some weight, but then the weight comes back on — about half of what she'd lost altogether.
She gets worried and wants to have surgery so that she'll lose more weight. American doctors require "red tape," like testing for emotional readiness and medical conditions like sleep apnea. The family refuses, opting instead to take her to a surgeon in Mexico, who performs lap-banding surgery without all the tests required by the American docs.
First let me say that I'm glad that Brooke Bates is feeling better after all of this. I'm glad that she has lost some weight and that her health has improved.
I am not glad that she had liposuction. I'm also not glad that she went to Mexico to have a lap-banding surgery.
I can hear people saying, "Hey, lighten up, doc. She's thinner and happier." Let me explain my concerns.
First the liposuction. It's never been recommended for weight loss. It isn't effective.
This case proved that; Brooke soon began to gain weight after the procedure. Liposuction just removes localized deposits of fat. It's cosmetic surgery, period. It's what someone might consider after losing weight, who still has some fat bulges in unwanted places. You'll lose a few pounds, but it's mostly for appearance.
Lap banding, on the other hand, is done to facilitate weight loss.
Lap banding is a procedure in which a kind of strap is placed around the top of the stomach, preventing it from expanding, so that you get full by eating only small meals. Overeat, and you risk vomiting — and some people do.
The procedure is not benign, and significant problems and malfunctions of the banding can occur.
Most surgeons performing weight loss surgeries like this one require potential patients, regardless of age, to undergo psychological counseling and several medical evaluations in order to determine whether they are good candidates who can emotionally handle the process and its results — as well as to document serious acute conditions that might benefit from weight loss, such as sleep apnea.
Brooke's family declined to go through such procedures. Her mother has said in the past, "It's so much paperwork you have to go through. So much red tape is what I call it. I mean, they want you to get psychological testing. They want you to do, you know, get sleep apnea testing. And all those things I'm sure are very important, but it's just — it's money."
Sorry, but the surgery is where the money is spent. When a surgeon turns down a patient for lap-banding surgery, there's a reason, and it's called being responsible.
When parents override medical recommendations and travel to Mexico or another foreign country for the quick fix, it's a heck of a chance to take with a child's health.
It's good that things worked out for the Bates family, with no serious medical complications from the lap banding, but that doesn't mean the procedure is safe for a 12-year-old. It means that the Bates family may have dodged a bullet.
Surgery is not an "easy way out," but it is definitely the quick way, and that's not always the best way. To learn lifestyles that you'll stick to, slow and steady wins over fast and furious.