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January 23, 2013

Is weight-loss surgery the right answer for overweight teenagers?

Some researchers say teens suffer lasting damage from being severely obese

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“I had zero confidence in myself before surgery. But after I had the surgery and saw the results and realized how much better I physically felt, I knew that I had a second chance at life and I was excited about it.”

Kelley also says that when it came time to decide whether to get the surgery, the decision wasn’t very difficult due to the heavy amount of research she did beforehand.

“It was not a tough decision for me at all, because I made an informed decision,” she said. “I did the research about the surgery and I felt that it was what I needed to do. The decision to go ahead with the surgery was one that I made on my own. I knew that my parents supported me and they had given me their opinions but they wanted me to solely make the final decision.”

The research team points to the fact that one out of five kids suffers from obesity in the United States, which is three times the rate of just a generation ago, and although new health initiatives have been established to help lower the childhood obesity rate, the number of kids suffering from obesity just isn’t decreasing fast enough.

Kelley says one of the good things about the weight-loss surgery, at least in her case, was a fast recovery time.

“Recovery for me personally was not difficult,” she says. “I was back to school in two weeks for half days and four weeks after surgery I was going for full days. I felt that a lot of the recovery was because I had the determination.”

A family affair

Some parents may still be worried about their teenagers getting such an invasive procedure so early in life, but Dr. Marc Michalsky, who was involved in the study and also one of the physicians who performed the bariatric surgery on Kelley, said both parents and teenager really need to be involved in the decision-making process, and the procedure should not be one that kids make alone.

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