Queensland woman’s struggle with rare condition

Ellie Baxter was just 17 when she had gastric sleeve surgery after her physical and mental health was essentially non-existent due to a rare syndrome.

A 19-year-old woman has revealed how her only option to live a full life was gastric sleeve surgery after she was diagnosed with elastic skin.

Ellie Baxter was just 17 when she had gastric sleeve surgery after her physical and mental health was essentially non-existent – and has been open about the positives and negatives of her decision and how it has impacted her body.

When she was 15, the Ipswich teenager was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which is a series of inherited disorders impacted connective tissue such as the skin and joints.

Ellie has the kind that meant her body was hypermobile, meaning she was in chronic pain, had recurring dislocations, bruised easily and took forever to heal.

Since she was 10 she had eight hip surgeries because of her EDS, and it meant that any excessive movement would likely leave her bedridden with some kind of injury.

When she was in primary school, the nursing student and makeup artist weighed 80kg.

My life before my gastric sleeve was pretty much non-existent,” Ellie told news.com.au.

“I 100% believe people can live full lives while having excess weight with the right support and with love around them, but for me this just wasn’t how it worked.

“I spent my days ashamed, riddled with anxiety and never wanting to leave the house, despite my weight being my biggest anxiety trigger, food was also my coping mechanism and my outlet.

“My binge eating disorder only got worse when I developed post-traumatic stress disorder when I was 14.”

She tried every diet possible, including going keto, but her safety net of food and her EDS made it nearly impossible for her to make the weight budge.

At 17, and in her final year of school, Ellie weighed 142kg and had hit a breaking point in her life. She just wanted to have the same life as so many others her age without having to consider her anxieties or illnesses.

“I sat with my thoughts and I just couldn’t do it anymore,” Ellie explained.

“I’d tried every fad diet, seen multiple dietitians, psychologists and exercise physiologists and my weight would just yoyo up and down.

“I knew something needed to change, I knew that if I continued on the path I was on I would just get sicker and sicker and never come out of my shell to achieve the life and career I wanted.

“I couldn’t do it alone, so I spoke with my parents, my GP and psychologist and I was adamant I wanted the sleeve.“

Within two months, Ellie was being wheeled into the surgery that would categorically change her life. It was unlike all the hip surgeries she’d had before – this was going to start a journey of inwardly healing as well as helping her physical being.

After the surgery, she had to stick a strict diet so she could learn her body’s new limits.

It wasn’t easy and, for the first few weeks, she “regretted every decision she ever made” as she couldn’t even keep a sip of water down.

“I missed food, it was my addiction,” Ellie said.

“But as the weeks went on I slowly adjusted to my new life. I learned what I could and couldn’t eat and what made me sick.

“As the weight came off I regretted my decision less and less.”

Ellie went into the surgery with the mindset this was a clean slate and, within eight months, she hit her target weight and has kept 62kg off successfully since.

She’s been able to do so many things she could before like being able to shop at a regular store, have the confidence to go out with friends and walk without having to take a break to catch her breath.

It’s been a lot more than the physical for Ellie, however.

“My overall my weight loss has allowed me to lead a life I never knew I could have,” she said.

“I work in aged care as a personal care worker and I’m studying at university to become a registered nurse.

“I have worked in nursing since I was 16 and can never see myself doing anything else – which was my dream when I made the decision to lose weight.”

Ellie has been open about everything during her weight loss journey on her TikTok page – including the fact that dropping a large amount of weight quickly has left her with excess skin.

She said that the majority of the excess skin was on her abdomen, arms, thighs and chest and, while she plans to have surgery for it, she knows it is a while away while she saves for it.

“I created my TikTok page to share my journeys, the highs and the lows living with chronic illness and to try and destigmatise weight loss surgery as the “easy way out’ by being completely open and transparent about my journey,” Ellie said.

With all of Ellie’s wins, she still thinks that her chronic illness battles are the hardest she has ever done.

“Knowing I will have this for the rest of my life is terrifying and something I hate thinking about,” she said.

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