A suburban teen who underwent weight loss surgery says the procedure changed her life for the better.
Alex Hernandez, a 17-year-old high school senior from Aurora, said she had tried everything after steadily gaining weight in her early teens.
"I had been going to the gym, different work out plans, like these fad diets... a bunch of stuff that just wasn't really working," Hernandez said.
Hernandez eventually turned to the Weight Management Program at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.
Although weight loss surgery had been traditionally viewed as an option for adults, the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidance on Oct. 27, revealing weight loss surgery is a safe treatment option for kids and teens.
"There are 13-year-old patients that come in who are physiologically like a 60-year-old person," said Dr. Ann O'Connor, director of the Adolescent Bariatric Surgery Program at the hospital. "They have diabetes. They have high blood pressure. They have sleep apnea. They can't walk."
Hernandez worked with a team of doctors, a nutritionist and physical therapist to lose 10 pounds in six months. She then decided to undergo a sleeve surgery, in which a surgeon physically cut out a large portion of her stomach.
"Surgery...actually my husband was at first against it," said Hernandez's mother, Erica Ortega. "He's like no... that's not the way we should do that."
However, Dr. O'Connor changed their minds.
In March, she removed 80% of Hernandez's stomach, and in the following months, the teen lost 70 more pounds.
"Now I have so much more energy that I don't know what to do with it," she said.