With her graduation just around the corner, a new job, and plans for college in the fall, Megan Acaccia has a lot to celebrate.
But just a year ago, things did not look so bright for the 18-year-old San Jose native. At 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighing more than 300 pounds, Megan was morbidly obese. She was so bullied at school that she stayed at home for a month, and suffered through bouts of vomiting, diarrhea and night sweats. Requiring seven kinds of daily medications, she battled hypertension, arthritis, acid reflux, polycystic ovary syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea—all a result of her excess weight.
“I would go on a short hike and then not be able to walk for three days,” remembers Megan, who tried every diet in the world. “The pain in my back and ankles was so bad.”
Today, Megan tells a different story.
In June 2011 Megan had bariatric surgery—a last resort for weight loss patients who have tried everything else. That’s why she turned to Packard Children’s and the Center for Healthy Weight, where in 2004 the first California children’s hospital bariatric surgery was performed. Packard Children’s is also the only children’s hospital on the West Coast to offer the sleeve gastrectomy, a less-invasive procedure for adolescents that was introduced in 2010.
Through the sleeve gastrectomy procedure, doctors dramatically shrank the size of Megan’s stomach, removed the part of the stomach that generates the hunger hormone, and delayed gastric emptying, which means that Megan now feels full longer, even after eating a very small amount of food. “Imagine the stomach is a bag. We transform it into a long tube the size of a banana,” described Matias Bruzoni, MD, pediatric general surgeon at Packard Children’s, who led the surgical team that removed about two-thirds of Megan’s stomach during the surgery.
Megan had lots to do to prepare for the surgery. She had monthly appointments with a Packard Children’s dietician, social worker, physical therapist, physician and psychologist. Her family was taught to modify their lifestyle to support her goals, with advice on diet and exercise, as well as how to prepare healthy meals.
Today Megan is riding her bike three miles a day, climbing the steepest Bay Area hills, and shopping for new clothes. After losing more than 100 pounds, her medications have been replaced with a single daily vitamin, and she no longer needs a positive airway pressure mask to sleep. Her new healthy lifestyle has also inspired her mother, sister and brother to lose a combined 150 pounds.
- Stanford Children's Health
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