Patient: Donna Marie Bloomquest, Brooklyn, NY
Clinician: Henry Anhalt, M.D., Infants and Children’s Hospital of Brooklyn at Maimonides; SUNY Downstate
Specialty: Pediatric Endocrinology – Childhood Obesity
Approximately three years ago, nine-year-old Donna Marie Bloomquest began to gain weight unexplainably. Not an overeater or one to be sedentary, Donna Marie’s body was suddenly changing for no apparent reason. She was embarrassed, confused and fearful that she had done something wrong to cause this change. Within one year, she had gained an astonishing 20 pounds.
Her mother, Christine, became very concerned about Donna Marie’s weight gain, turning to her daughter’s pediatrician for answers. Unfortunately, Donna Marie’s pediatrician did not diagnose her condition as characteristic ofmetabolic syndrome and the youngster’s weight continued to climb.
A referral from a friend resulted in both mother and daughter visiting with a specialist – an endocrinologist named Dr. Henry Anhalt. Dr. Anhalt’s “Kids Weight-Down” program caters to the specific needs of overweight children, childhood (pediatric) obesity, and their families. Designed to address all elements of a person’s weight loss – overall health, diet, lifestyle, etc. – this 12-week-long program incorporates the input from nutritionists and psychologists as well an endocrine team to customize each child’s program.
At the first appointment, Dr. Anhalt noticed a ring around the back of Donna Marie’s neck – a tell-tail sign that she had severe insulin resistance – and quickly diagnosed her with Type 2 diabetes , dyslipidemia (elements of the metabolic syndrome) and hypothyroidism. Donna Marie weighed 140 pounds.
In addition to a regimen of Metformin® twice a day and obesity medications designed to reduce her lipid levels and treat Donna Marie’s thyroid disease,hypothyroidism, she actively participated in Dr. Anhalt’s “Kids Weight-Down” program for weight loss. With her mother’s support, Donna Marie met with behavioral therapists and nutritionists who assessed her childhood (pediatric) obesity situation, identified reachable goals and developed a customized weight loss program.
Donna Marie emerged from the weight loss program with stronger eating and living habits, and has been able to wrangle her blood sugar to normal levels (without needing insulin typically needed with diabetes), while getting her lipid and thyroid hormone levels under control.
Despite Donna’s improved health profile now, she currently weighs 180 pounds and continues to gain weight – an issue being addressed by Dr. Anhalt and his team during Donna’s monthly check-in appointments.
Her mother says that while the teasing Donna Marie experiences at school hurts her, the youngster is determined to be successful in weight loss and is very receptive to treatment – she even asked her mother for a treadmill for Christmas.
The changes in Donna Marie’s life to cope with her thyroid disease (hypothyroidism) and related childhood (pediatric) obesity issues are not easy and require lifestyle modifications by the whole family. Christine is a vegetarian who lives for carbohydrates – mostly pasta and bread. Now, she has to sneak them. But Christine is grateful that her daughter is learning how to manage her thyroid disease (hypothyroidism) condition rather than risk developing an eating disorder down the road as a remedy to her weight loss issue.
“In order for a patient to really benefit long-term from obesity treatment, they need life-long support systems in place,” says Dr. Anhalt. “Most patients, especially children, need reinforcement to maintain the lifestyle changes necessary to regain what’s been lost as a result of obesity. Each child should be treated based on their own unique needs.”
Christine, a single mom, recommends that any mother who sees changes in their children’s weight should immediately seek out the care of an endocrinologist. She says that her daughter’s pediatrician was a barrier to Donna Marie’s hypothyroidism diagnosis and, she feels, may have actually cost her valuable treatment time.
Christine wants people to think about obesity and its causes before they judge the way others look. Acknowledging the looks people give her daughter, she challenges others to consider the possibility that people may be obese because of a medical condition (like thyroid disease, hypothyroidism), not just because they “sit at home and stuff their faces.”
Donna Marie’s health and childhood (pediatric) obesity issues are slowly improving and she hopes to get back to looking “normal.” Although she faces a lifetime of obesity medication, especially for her thyroid disease (hypothyroidism) condition, Donna Marie continues to fight childhood (pediatric) obesity, maintaining a positive outlook and remaining vigilant in her weight loss and treatment.