Texas Girl Obesity Surgery

'So Happy': Insurer Will Pay for Texas Girl's Obesity Surgery

A 12-year-old Texas girl who gained more than 140 pounds after a rare complication following the removal of a brain tumor will have weight-loss surgery covered by the U.S. government's military insurance plan, her mother said Friday.

Alexis Shapiro could be scheduled for a gastric bypass operation within eight weeks, after TRICARE, the military insurer, reversed an earlier decision to deny the surgery because the girl was too young.

"I couldn't ask for anything more," said Jenny Shapiro, 34, of Cibolo, Texas. "I'm just so happy."

NBC News couldn't immediately reach TRICARE representatives, but Jenny Shapiro said that a case manager called her with the news late Friday. The reversal came less than a week after NBC News first reported the story.

In the meantime, well-wishers donated more than $78,000 to an online fund to help the girl, who suffers from a rare disorder that makes her gain massive amounts weight even as her body thinks it's starving.

The problem started after Alexis, then a normal 9-year-old, had surgery to remove a rare benign brain tumor, which wound up damaging her hypothalamus and pituitary gland, two organs that regulate weight and appetite.

Since then, she's gained at least two pounds a week, climbing to nearly 200 pounds on 4-foot-7 frame, despite strict diet and exercise. At times, her parents have had to padlock kitchen cupboards because of her severe food cravings caused by the disorder.

Dr. Thomas Inge, a pediatric obesity expert at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, says that gastric bypass surgery will stop the weight gain, help Alexis lose her extra weight and curb the food cravings.

Jenny Shapiro emphasized her gratitude for the donations and said the money would pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance and for travel from Texas to Ohio. Any remaining will be used to help other children with similar problems, she said.

"I just want to do what's right for everybody," she added.

Image: Alexis Shapiro, 12
Alexis Shapiro, 12, of Cibolo, Texas, is likely to get life-saving obesity surgery within eight weeks after military health insurance officials reversed a decision denying the operation because they said she was too young. Ilana Panich-Linsman / for NBC News