12-Year-Old Girl Has Liposuction

ByABC News via GMA logo
November 6, 2006, 8:28 AM

Nov. 6, 2006 — -- Childhood can be a tough place for an overweight kid, as other children can be brutal with cruel words, laughter and cold stares.

In a documentary called, "Fat Like Me," obese kids talked about the pain they experienced.

One boy said, "I'm like the prey. People come after me because I'm fat."

"I eat and I feel worse. And then, I gain weight. And then, I keep eating," said another overweight girl in the film.

Brooke Bates, of Austin, Tex., has struggled with her weight since early childhood, gaining the nickname, "Big Brooke."

She described herself as a giant balloon, one that was ever expanding, and none of the countless diets she tried seemed to make any difference.

By age 11, Brooke weighed 180 pounds; a year later, at 5-foot-5, she rose to a shocking 220 pounds, and her doctors classified her as morbidly obese.

Feeling helpless and isolated, Brooke needed a radical approach. She and her family considered gastric bypass surgery but feared it was too risky.

After watching a documentary on weight loss, 12-year-old Brooke decided on liposuction, a procedure thought to sculpt an imperfect body, not treat obesity.

She went to see Dr. Robert Ersek, a leading plastic surgeon in Austin. At first he was opposed to the idea.

"I don't think that every 12-year-old should come in and get a few pounds taken off by liposuction, but in certain cases where all else has failed, it can change their life to be a normal person," Ersek said.

Brooke's interview with Ersek before surgery shed light on her fears and her hopes for a normal future.

"Maybe If I could do it I would look a little normal," she told him.

Not only was the extra weight affecting Brooke's self-esteem, but it was seriously affecting her health.

Her mother, Cindy, said that Brooke's blood pressure was sky high, and doctors said she was at risk for a stroke.

Ersek agreed to go through with the procedure, and removed 35 pounds of fat and fluid from her body. Today, Brooke weighs 153 pounds. She and her family called the surgery a miracle.