Saving Obese Children Surgically?

01.9.12

obese-youngsters-children-body fat

This Sunday’s New York Times has an article that took my breath away. It follows the journey of a teenage girl who opts for the lap band in order to cure her of morbid obesity. The story is heart wrenching in every way, from the sad fact that a teenage girl would weigh close to 300 pounds to the ultimate failure of the device and our medical system.

Currently Allergan is trying to get the FDA to to allow it to market the Lap-Band to patients as young as 14. This is a phenomenal disaster in so many ways I’m not quite sure where to begin.

The Lap-Band restricts the size of the patient’s stomach so that they feel full. It’s not a surgery without risk but of course the folks who are getting the Lap-Band are already at risk for a host of terribly debilitating and life threatening diseases. The Lap-Band isn’t about getting cute, it’s a medical Hail Mary.

In restricting the size of a patient’s stomach, the Lap-Band also restricts a patient’s ability to get nutrition. Lap-Band recipients are told to take vitamins, but because of the size of their stomachs the vitamins are very uncomfortable to swallow. I have a hard time swallowing vitamins and I assure you I have the palate of a billy goat and a rather average sized stomach.

There are countless stories about Lap-Band patients and their misery post operatively. Common sense dictates that when someone needs to lose half their body weight it’s a medical issue, a behavioral issue and a psychological issue. A 45 minute surgery is more of an introduction to the solution than it is an ending.

It is alarming that Allergen would seek to make Lap-Bands available to 14 year olds. It is not alarming that Allergen wants to do business with teens. Allergen is a business and it operates to please it’s shareholders. What is alarming that there is a growing market for Lap-Bands with teens both literally and figuratively.

As I mentioned before Lap-Bands are the Hail Mary of medicine. When a patient gets a Lap-Band that means that diets, therapy, exercise, and behavior modification have failed. The tremendous risk of surgery is overshadowed by the risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart failure.

Every parent, educator and ally of children should be wondering how we can affect change so that 14 year olds never need to lose half their body weight. Every lawmaker who thinks they can cut physical education out of the school day needs to know that it’s going to cost our country hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat those children who are unable to work and who will require medical care that healthy sized folks don’t require. Every school board that serves crap lunches should know that they’ve effectively slapped every child in the face, hard, when they serve them dubious food.

Every time high fructose corn syrup (or Corn Sugar) is added to a food it should have a surgeon general’s warning on it much like a pack of cigarettes. This will attack your liver and send your pancreas into a tailspin. Your body doesn’t know what to do with this much sucrose.

And every time we tell ourselves that a ten year old has “baby fat” and then we reward him with a Snickers Bar we should be ashamed. Because it hurts our kids. It’s Munchausen’s by Twinkie.

It’s entirely possible that your breakfast cereal has more sugar in it than your homemade cake or cookies.

It’s probably not good medicine to give Lap-Bands to teenagers, but Allergan isn’t their parent. Let’s please look at articles like this and be shocked into doing something good for our kids, all of our kids.

If these kids feel ashamed for being fat we should all feel shame for making them that way.