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Strangers donate $50K for obesity surgery: 12-year-old has rare eating disorder

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For 12-year-old Alexis Shapiro from Cibolo, Texas, eating is an exercise in futility. Due to a rare disorder in her endocrine system, the pre-teen’s hunger is never satisfied. At nearly 200 pounds and gaining at an alarming rate, doctors recommended a surgery that would curb her runaway eating condition – a disorder termed hypothalamic obesity.

The surgery was not covered by insurance, but strangers have come to the girl’s aid. NBC News reported today that over 1,000 people have pledged donations topping $50,000 – just about enough to cover what’s thought to be a life-saving surgery.

The charitable response started within hours after NBC News first reported the story on Saturday.

“My goodness! It’s crazy,” said Jenny Shapiro, Alexis’ mother. Jenny added that the touching generosity has already done much to heal the young girl, who is the victim of constant ridicule.

“Alexis really likes it. I think she feels like people aren’t looking at her anymore and people are rooting for her,” Shapiro said.

The gastric bypass surgery was not covered by TRICARE and Humana Military, groups that provide family insurance through Alexis’s father, Air Force veteran Ian Shapiro. The surgery may only be covered when a child reaches 18 years of age and achieved full bone growth, says a TRICARE rep.

Doctors and Alexis’s parents say she wouldn’t live that long at the rate she is growing. Her morbid obesity requires immediate attention, and her parents are struggling with controlling her eating, despite taking desperate measures such as padlocking their cabinets.

Alexis now has Type 2 diabetes, as well as other health problems associated with her overeating. When she was 9, she had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor, but her hypothalamus and pituitary gland – organs that help regulate appetite and weight – were damaged. Her mind now “tricks” her body into thinking its starving, no matter how much she eats.

The GoFundMe account, entitled Hope for Alexis, now has reached over $64,000 as of the writing of this article, with more donations and well-wishes coming in by the minute.

A recent post from Alexis’s mom:

“Oh my!!! I can't believe this!... We are so grateful. I am going to contact the hospital on Monday. To find out if this will cover all the costs. Thank you to everyone who cares. Also I will set up a PO box for cards and letters. Alexis would love to get mail.”

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