Teen Undergoes Weight Loss Surgery

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -  For many struggling with obesity, weight loss surgery is their last resort. However, there is a difference between most of the people who've undergone this operation and Melody Taylor from Saline County.                                                                                                                                     

She's 18-years-old. As it turns out, this procedure is not uncommon for teens. In fact, national data shows the number of adolescents ages 12 to 19, who are heavy enough to qualify for weight loss surgery, has nearly doubled from 1999 to 2014. 

Before surgery, our reporter Susanne Brunner met with Melody to learn more about why she's come to this point in her life. 

Looking through pictures of her childhood, she remembers happy times and she wouldn't change a thing about it. However, she does remember feeling different sometimes.

"Of course I've always been the chunky kid in class. I've been overweight my whole life," says Melody.

It wasn't until she was 10-years-old when she realized she was overweight. That's when she started her first diet.

"Oh gosh what haven't I done," she adds.

Melody showed us workout videos that got her off the couch to dance and exercise with weights. She also stocked the refrigerator with protein, colorful fruits and vegetables; but the diets didn't last long.

"Why haven't they worked?" we ask her. "I don't know. I guess I lose motivation, maybe because I feel disappointed," she responds.

After much research and talks with doctors at the Arkansas Heart Hospital, Melody made the life-changing decision to get weight loss surgery. 

"I just don't want to continue being how I am, you know?," she continues.

Melody says she has a family history of diabetes and heart disease. 

Weighing about 275 pounds, health has become her number one priority.

"It's not so much like, 'oh I want to look rocking in a size 5,' but it's more like I don't want to give up my life," she says.

On the day of gastric sleeve surgery, doctors removed about 80 percent of her stomach, including the hunger hormone. 

Then, they stapled the remaining portions together to make a new banana-sized stomach or "sleeve." This option will allow Melody to feel full quicker and not eat as much.

"I wouldn't say it's an uncommon thing, but it's not a typical patient," says Samuel Bledsoe, Director of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at the Arkansas Heart Hospital.

As in the case of anyone who wants this procedure, Dr. Bledsoe says Melody had to talk to a psychiatrist to make sure she was mentally prepared and understands what life will look like after surgery.

"We do have extra requirements for someone who is that young. Now there are facilities out there that actually operate on what we call pediatric patients, 13, 14-year-olds," explains Dr. Bledsoe.

The Arkansas Heart Hospital will not operate on children 17 and younger. Legally, Melody is an adult at 18 and chose this option as her last best hope. 

We visited her the next morning, where she is on liquids for several weeks before slowly transitioning into soft foods. 

"My appetite is completely gone, like I'm not hungry, so that is like the biggest change," she tells us.

What once looked tasty on TV, not so much anymore. Melody says she has lost several pounds before and after surgery, and feels some discomfort. 

She hopes to lose 100 pounds while eating right and attending weight loss support groups to stay motivated.

"I just don't want those health problems that come later in life from being overweight. So, I'm excited to change my life," Melody says.

As a new door opens for her, she's going home with a new outlook on life, health and a challenge she's determined to conquer.

Since Melody's procedure, she has lost 45 pounds. 

A national study shows we are starting to see more adolescents go through this type of procedure. Does it work and what are the effects? You can check out a study that highlights the impacts by clicking here.

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