At age 13, Cassie became one of the youngest patients ever to undergo a gastric banding procedure.
Unlike gastric bypass, gastric banding doesn't permanently alter the digestive system. Instead, an adjustable belt is placed around the upper part of the stomach. This belt restricts the amount of food you can eat and slows how quickly food empties from the stomach, which causes a constant feeling of fullness.
An inflatable, saline-filled tube on the inside of the belt allows doctors to squeeze the stomach tighter by filling it with extra fluid or deflate it so a patient can put on weight.
When Cassie and her mother first arrived at the Tijuana surgical clinic, they both say they felt scared. "It was the first time I ever went into Mexico," Cassie says.
"I just kept thinking, 'Is this the right decision?'" Jennifer says. "The things going through my mind were, 'She's out of my hands now. I can't protect her—and her life is in their hands.'"
Once inside the operating room, Cassie says the doctors put her at ease. Her surgery was a success, and she says she was up and walking soon after the anesthesia wore off.