Jump to content

Cassie on The Oprah Winfrey Show

Recommended Posts

(This is the program excerpt from Oprah.com)

Since some weight loss procedures like gastric banding aren't FDA-approved for children in this country, one mother traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, for help.


In 2004, Jennifer's 13-year-old daughter Cassie weighed 220 pounds. Though Cassie tried dieting and consulted a nutritionist, Jennifer says she kept putting on weight.

"Every month, [she gained] between 5 to 8 pounds. … We don't know where the weight was coming [from]," she says. "My biggest fear was mentally, Cassie would crash. She'd become depressed, she'd eat because of the depression, she'd stop sports, she'd stop being who she was."

When Cassie revealed that she was being teased about her weight, Jennifer says she decided it was time to take action. She researched gastric banding surgery and found a doctor in Mexico who agreed to perform the procedure. "In the United States, there are no other options for these children," she says. "No doctor would touch her."

Jennifer says maternal instincts made her want to fix things for her child. "You want to protect them and do what's right for them," Jennifer says. "I know this was major, but in my heart, I felt I was doing the right thing for her."


At age 13, Cassie became one of the youngest patients ever to undergo a gastric banding procedure.

Unlike gastric bypass, gastric banding doesn't permanently alter the digestive system. Instead, an adjustable belt is placed around the upper part of the stomach. This belt restricts the amount of food you can eat and slows how quickly food empties from the stomach, which causes a constant feeling of fullness.

An inflatable, saline-filled tube on the inside of the belt allows doctors to squeeze the stomach tighter by filling it with extra fluid or deflate it so a patient can put on weight.

When Cassie and her mother first arrived at the Tijuana surgical clinic, they both say they felt scared. "It was the first time I ever went into Mexico," Cassie says.

"I just kept thinking, 'Is this the right decision?'" Jennifer says. "The things going through my mind were, 'She's out of my hands now. I can't protect her—and her life is in their hands.'"

Once inside the operating room, Cassie says the doctors put her at ease. Her surgery was a success, and she says she was up and walking soon after the anesthesia wore off.


Since her surgery, Cassie has dropped almost 80 pounds. Today, at 141 pounds, she says she's happier and healthier.

Her outward appearance isn't the only thing that's changed. Cassie has also developed new eating habits. "I can eat anything I want, it's just smaller portions. I can eat like a hamburger, take three bites of a hamburger and maybe two french fries, and I'm set," she says. "It's like they put a different kind of gas tank in me and whenever it hits full, you're full."

Despite the risks, Jennifer says she's glad they didn't wait until Cassie was older to have the surgery. "I didn't want her knees to go," she says. "I didn't want her to get diabetes. I didn't want it to go past the point of no return."

If she had the funds, Jennifer says she'd help other obese teens get gastric banding surgery. "I'll tell anybody, you know, this is [less] invasive. It's proven with her. She's very happy, and most of all, she's healthy."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


You did a great job on Oprah. I think all of us wish that we had the opportunity when we were your age. I'm just jealous that you have so many years of being thin ahead of you. I was 53 when I had my surgery.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...