Maria Caprigno

A Story of Persistence for Health at a Young Age

Recently, we wrote of deep concern about teens with severe obesity who are denied effective obesity care. For insight into why this matters so much, consider the experiences of Maria Caprigno, a proud OAC member and brilliant patient advocate. Her story is one of incredible persistence for health at a very young age.

I first received the diagnosis of obesity at the age of four. Then, I weighed 79 pounds and was the size of a seven-year-old. At the time, doctors referred to it as a “growth spurt.” But I continued to gain significant amounts of weight over the next few years. So it was obvious that this was no “spurt.”

Middle School

Maria Caprigno, age 14By the age of 12, I weighed 398 pounds and faced humiliation from my middle school nurse. She told me I “should be ashamed” of myself for my weight. I didn’t need to be told to feel shame, because I most certainly felt enough of it every single day. But the nurse’s comments really stung.

That night I came home crying about her comments. It was also that night when I decided to have bariatric surgery and found my first bariatric surgeon. I somehow convinced my mom to call the doctor’s office the following day, and he agreed to follow my progress over the next two years until I was 14, which was the minimum age he would perform surgery.

A Gastric Sleeve

By the time I did have a sleeve gastrectomy on February 9, 2010, I weighed 443 pounds. Doctors told me that this surgery was the only option to ensure that I saw my 18th birthday. Not only did I see 18 thanks to my sleeve, but I also lost about 100 pounds by that time. However, losing weight is definitely one of the hardest things an individual will ever do, and I experienced pretty significant regain during college, leading me to seek more help in my journey to health.

A Duodenal Switch

Just weeks after my twenty-first birthday, I underwent a second surgery to convert my sleeve to a duodenal switch. Choosing this surgery was not easy; a duodenal switch is a much more extreme surgery with more risks than a sleeve. Those risks, combined with the fact that I felt a lot of shame for needing a second procedure, caused me a lot of anxiety.

I honestly felt like a failure at times. But thanks to the amazing community that I joined after my sleeve, I realized that my health was much more important than any shame I was feeling.

Better Life and Better Health

Before all of this, I had pre-diabetes. I could not walk more than a few steps without getting winded. Now I can walk all I want. I have no signs or symptoms of diabetes at all.

I feel so fortunate that I found this supportive and caring community of people who build me up and make me feel comfortable and confident in my own skin, rather than putting me down for my struggles. My surgeries may have saved my life, but this community helped me live my life to the fullest and I am forever grateful for that.

Maria is a genuinely amazing person. At age 22, she has earned a master’s degree in Public Administration. Through her remarkable persistence, she found a better, healthier life for herself. But we wonder. Among five million American children and teens with severe obesity, how many will be denied the opportunity to make the choices Maria has made?

For an earlier account of Maria’s life experiences, click here. For a list of U.S. centers that offer comprehensive obesity treatment programs, click here

Maria Caprigno, photograph © Maria Caprigno

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


 

Month 23, 2018

4 Responses to “A Story of Persistence for Health at a Young Age”

  1. March 23, 2018 at 9:18 am, Susan Burke March said:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story, Ted.

  2. March 23, 2018 at 9:38 am, Ted said:

    I agree with you, Susan. Maria has a beautiful story to share and all the thanks go to her for sharing it.

  3. March 26, 2018 at 10:59 am, Allen Browne said:

    I would call this story maddening and inspiring.

    It is maddening that this young woman was treated so badly for at least 10 years and had to beat the system to get healthier. No child should have to go through this to get healthier. And currently most children with obesity do not get treatment to assist them to gain health. She is a remarkable young lady. She is a survivor and definitely shows resilience.

    It is inspiring to see that treatment can help. The children need advocates. The children, the public, the healthcare providers, and the policy makers need education about obesity. The children and the healthcare providers need support to provide care for these children. It is far more than “nice” or “fair”. Ultimately it is an economic imperative.

    Thanks for sharing this story, Ted.

    Congratulations and apologies to Maria.

    Allen

  4. March 27, 2018 at 2:59 am, Ted said:

    Allen, you’re right. Thank you!