Malissa Jones, once nicknamed “Britain’s fattest teen” is now quite possibly Britain’s skinniest…and unhappiest teen, following gastric bypass surgery.
Lose weight now, she was told, or your life is at stake
At the age of 16, Ms. Jones was warned by her doctor that she would have only months to live, unless she lost weight. Morbidly obese, Malissa weighed in at 34 stone. (In American-speak, that’s 476 pounds.) Having already had a mild heart attack a year earlier, Malissa was told to lose 280 pounds, lest the next heart attack be her last.
Her diet consisted of mainly junk food like chocolate and potato chips. At 5’8, Malissa consumed about 15,000 calories a day, more than 7 times the amount recommended for a girl of her age with her build. Malissa had all the symptoms of obesity; she suffered from angina, a cardiovascular disease normally associated with old age, at the tender age of 15. At nighttime she was forced to wear an oxygen mask, because doctors warned that her heart and lungs couldn’t withstand the force of her weight while she was lying down.
For more information about the risks involved with teen weight loss surgery, please read Teens and Weight Loss Surgery: Worth the Risk?
Doctors recommended gastric bypass surgery
In 2008, at the age of 17, Malissa Jones made headlines when she became the youngest person ever in the UK to receive gastric bypass surgery, of which the cut-off age is generally 18. The $20,000 NHS funded operation entailed stapling her stomach to a significantly smaller size and “bypassing” her digestive system so as to limit food absorption. For this reason, gastric bypass patients are unable to digest vitamins such as B12 from food sources, and must submit to a lifetime of vitamin supplements in order to prevent severe vitamin B12 deficiency.
The surgery was a success, at least at first. Two years post surgery, Malissa had lost half her body weight, although she still carried about 28 pounds of loose, excess flabby skin, a side effect which causes quite a bit of dismay among bariatric surgery patients.
“I’m too thin. My body shocks me. But swallowing is painful.
Eating a tiny amount gives me stomach cramps or makes me sick,” admits Malissa.
At the age of 20 she became pregnant. Doctors were concerned that her newly stapled stomach might rupture from the weight of the baby’s womb; at six months Malissa suffered liver failure, so she was forced to have a Cesarean birth. Her baby boy, named Harry, died only one hour after surgery of malnutrition. During her pregnancy, and likely as a result of her weight loss surgery, she was not physically able to eat enough food to support herself and the baby. Malissa was devastated.
For more information about avoiding vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy, please read Pregnant Moms and Low B-12 Levels: Let ‘em Eat Steak!
Today, Malissa once again battles for her life, only now her enemy is anorexia nervosa
Now, Malissa is 21-years-old and weighs a mere 112 pounds. Diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, she admits that she has food phobia, and that eating makes her feel physically ill. Sometimes, she says, she would rather die than make herself eat. ”I’m too thin. My body shocks me. But swallowing is painful. Eating a tiny amount gives me stomach cramps or makes me sick,” admits Malissa.
Her regular daily diet consists of 3 cooked carrots, some turnips, and a roast potato, amounting to 300 calories, although she was advised to consume between 500 and 1,000 calories per day. Once again, Malissa is told that because of her weight she will likely die of a heart attack within months, only now the challenge is to eat enough to keep her alive.
Too late for regrets
In an interview from 2009, Malissa admits that she wishes she had never had the gastric bypass surgery, and that she liked her body better before when she was fat. The cost for excessive skin removal is $33,000, more than this 21-year-old, who had to quit her job because of disability caused by anorexia, can afford to save up. While the NHS agreed to pay for her $20,00 weight loss surgery, they have not agreed to fund the plastic surgery required to remove the scarred, wrinkled, overhanging skin which typically results from rapid weight loss.
“At least it was firm and curvy, not droopy and saggy,” she says. “I had nice firm arms – now the skin just hangs and I have to cover them up because they look so awful.”
In addition to suffering anorexia, Malissa has chronic depression, for which she takes antidepressants; she also suffers gastrointestinal diseases, chronic fatigue and low immunity. Because she is not able to follow a healthy nutritious diet, her immune system has been severely compromised, leaving her at risk for infections.
On a final note, Malissa has this to say to any obese individuals considering gastric bypass surgery:
“I wish I’d lost the weight through exercise and healthy eating. I know this operation was life-saving, but the complications I’m suffering now might still kill me. The truth is I feel I’m no better off than I was before.”
For more information on some of the risks involved with gastric bypass surgery, please read: