Sagar Balani, now 13, aspired to play football six years ago, but at 120kg he could barely move. The resident of Mulund (West) was admitted to hospital several times since he could not breathe and had difficulty in walking and sleeping.
On the advice of a family friend, he underwent bariatric surgery in 2007 and now weighs 46kg.
The BBC has recognised Sagar as the youngest child in the world to undergo bariatric surgery and recently featured him in its programme on weight-loss surgery.
“I always liked football, but due to my weight, I never played the game when I was small. But after this surgery, I gradually lost weight and I can play my favourite game now. I can even eat the occasional vada pava,” Sagar, a student of New Horizon School in Airoli, told dna.
Sagar’s mother Neetu said the family tried everything, including visiting Baba Ramdev, during his battle against weight, in vain. “In fact, his weight surged by 13kg once. He became the butt of all jokes, but got a role in the Madhuri Dixit-starrer Aaja Nachle,” she said.
A family friend advised the Balanis to approach Dr Shashank Shah, bariatric surgeon at Mulund’s Fortis Hospital and president of the Obesity Surgery Society of India. Given the gravity of the situation, the family agreed to a bariatric surgery on Sagar after
Dr Shah’s recommendation.
The surgery was performed in March 2007 after which Sagar began losing weight gradually because of the reduced food intake. Also, unlike other such surgeries which take an hour-and-a-half, Sagar’s operation went on for four hours.
The boy underwent sleeve gastrectomy, a restrictive form of weight-loss surgery, in which approximately 85 per cent of the stomach is removed, leaving a cylindrical or sleeve shaped- stomach.
The removal of a major part of the stomach results in the virtual elimination of ghrelin hormones, which stimulate hunger. It gives the feeling of instant fullness after a light meal.
“I have been performing weight-loss surgeries on patients belonging to various age groups for more than 10 years. Now, many obese undergo this surgery. However, until a few years ago, bariatric surgery was not popular. In Sagar’s case, I took a lot of precautions,” Dr Shah said.
While doing a feature on weight-loss surgeries, the BBC got in touch with Dr Shah since he had operated upon a British woman at Fortis Hospital. It was then that they got to know of Sagar’s case.
When the BBC compared it with other weight-loss cases, it found that he was the youngest person in the world to have undergone this operation. He was subsequently featured in its programme on supersized kids who lost a lot of weight through bariatric surgery.
Though the surgery worked for Sagar, it may turn fatal for others, warn doctors. It is not recommended in all obesity cases. “We first recommend exercises, diet control, etc, before suggesting surgery.
We advise the patients to opt for the surgery only if there is serious deterioration in health and there is a risk to life. In Sagar’s case, the surgery was necessary,’’ he said.