Thursday, March 19, 2009
Medical Reports: Troubling Trends
In this country, a staggering one-in-three children are overweight and, as the Nightteam's Lynn Martinez shows us, those excess pounds are threatening their lives.
WSVN -- Like most moms, Victoria Britto chooses to see the best in her son Chris.
Victoria Britto: "I never saw him as fat. I saw him as my cute little boy."
Even when he ballooned to more than 200 pounds at just 11 years old.
Victoria Britto: "I saw him as a little boy who still had time to grow."
So Victoria let Chris eat whatever he wanted.
Victoria Britto: "He wanted more, we gave him more. We never said no, or that's enough."
It never crossed her mind all that food could be killing him.
Chris Britto: "I'd rather eat something than go outside and play."
The family didn't realize just how dangerous Chris' weight problem had become until a doctor took this MRI of Chris' liver.
Dr. William Muinos: "The liver is being damaged. It's being choked by fat."
Even though the boy has never taken a sip of alcohol in his life, his liver looked as damaged as that of an alcoholic.
Chris Britto: "It was really scary, because at 11 years old, you wouldn't think that you'd have same liver as an alcoholic that's been drinking all their life."
All those white areas you see on his MRI are fat cells.
Chris Britto: "When I looked at that MRI, it felt like a death certificate."
Chris had what's called "Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease" or NAFLD.
Dr. William Muinos: "The association of the fatty infiltration is the same mechanism as if the child was drinking alcohol, but in reality all he's doing is eating the wrong things, and the lack of activity causes the liver to hold on to fat."
And if the weight isn't dropped quickly...
Dr. William Muinos: "This will lead to fibrosis of the liver, which is the damage of the liver that is irreversible and can lead to cirrhosis."
Irving Shapiro: "Yeah, I had a lot to eat. Like two servings of dinner and two cups of ice cream."
Fifteen-year-old Irving Shapiro was so overweight, breathing problems kept him tethered to an oxygen tank.
Irving Shapiro: "A year back, I couldn't walk four steps without getting tired or collapsing."
Irving ended up with cirrhosis of the liver and was told he would die without a liver transplant. He was terrified.
Irving Shapiro: "Like, I wasn't going to see my mom again or my sister."
He was lucky. He got a new liver last year. But with a shortage of liver donors nationwide, many children won't be as fortunate.
Irving Shapiro: "It feels like I'm lucky. I know there are kids that are still waiting."
The good news is NAFLD can be reversed if caught early enough. Unfortunately, there are no warning signs that a child's liver is going bad. Doctors say if your child is overweight, get a blood test to check the liver enzymes, and then get the weight under control.
Dr. William Muinos: "The treatment is diet and exercise. There's no magic pill."
Chris changed his diet and started exercising, and it made a huge impact on his weight and his liver. Take a look at his new MRI.
Dr William Muinos: "Where there was fat, now there is muscle. You don't see any of this whiteness in his organs."
Chris Britto: "I was happy I changed, that all the fat left."
Chris says the whole experience scared him so much, and he vows to make sure the excess weight never comes back.