MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — USA Health is giving severely obese children an option to lose weight. You have heard of weight loss surgery for adults. Now kids as young as 12 can go under the knife to lose weight. Dr. Katrina Weaver, a pediatric surgeon, is now performing the gastric sleeve procedure on Gulf Coast kids.

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WKRG spoke to two teenagers who were two of the first to have the surgery a year ago. 15-year-old Ian Warner is a student at Williamson High School. Despite efforts to lose weight, he weighed 488 pounds before surgery. He was on the football team, but could not fit in the equipment to play in a game. His mother, Lea, said he had a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, pre-diabetes and thickening of his heart.

Ian Warner in 2021 when he weighed 488 pounds.

“He was literally eating himself to death,” said Ian’s mom, Lea Warner.

“When it came to food, I wouldn’t call it an addiction, but at the same time I would,” said Ian Warner.

17-year-old McKenzie Davis also struggled with her weight. A student at Davidson High School, she just couldn’t seem to lose weight. Despite dieting, she hovered around 327 pounds.

“She had tried to exercise, tried to diet and did not see any progress there,” said mom Shantel Spencer.

McKenzie Davis in 2021 when she weighed 327 pounds.

Both Warner and McKenzie turned to USA Health’s Adolescent and Bariatric Metabolic Surgery Center. They worked with a team, including Weaver. After a six-month nutrition program, both teens were recommended for gastric sleeve surgery. During this surgery, Weaver removes a large portion of the stomach, including the part that produces the hunger-inducing hormone ghrelin. Weaver has performed the surgery on t23 teenagers over the last year. USA Health is the only academic center in the state of Alabama performing this surgery.

Image courtesy: USA Health

“350 to 400 pounds is the estimated weight range operated on. The majority of kids this year were on the higher side,” said Weaver.

She said the surgery is life-changing.

“Not only are the adolescents keeping the weight off longer, but the medical problems they are coming in with, we are completely reversing them,” said Weaver. “I love it because of the confidence and attitude that they gain.”

Weaver said the recovery is only a couple of days. Patients learn that they can only eat a small portion of what they previously ate.

“I used to get a full Chick-fil-A sandwich, but now I just take two bites out of it,” said McKenzie Davis.

Ian’s mom said he can only eat a fraction of what he used to eat.

“If he were to go to McDonald’s, I can honestly say I know he could have consumed a 20-piece combo before surgery. Now, he can do a 3 piece with a small fry and he’s not going to eat all the fries,” said Lea Warner.

Ian Warner has lost 100 pounds. McKenzie Davis has lost 88. Both are very happy with their weight loss and they know they will lose even more.

“Since I lost the weight, I can hang out with friends. I can do stuff. I can move around and stuff like that,” said Ian. He is preparing to play football this fall on the Williamson High School team now that he can fit in the uniform. He has already started workouts.

Ian Warner showing the pants he used to wear when he was 100 pounds heavier.

“I have always been cute but I feel more beautiful than I was before,” said McKenzie Davis. She loves modeling in the mirror to admire her new figure. She is proud she has gone from a size 26 to a 16.

McKenzie David showing off the pants she used to wear.

Both teens said they would suggest the surgery to any teen struggling with his or her weight.

To learn more about the surgery at USA Health Children’s and Women’s Hospital in this pamphlet.