Two obese sisters in India who have spent half their lives battling breathing problems and risk dying young, have finally had surgery on their stomachs to lose weight thanks to the kindness of an Indian surgeon.
Yogita, eight, and sister Amisha, six, weighed a massive 9st 2 lb and 13 st respectively at their heaviest.
But now, after bariatric surgery, the sisters have already lost over a stone in weight and their breathing already improved.
Yogita, eight, and Amisha, six, recover after surgery with their mother Pragna Ben, 32, and father Rameshbhai, 36, at Asian Bariatrics Clinic, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, western India.
The pair recovering after their operation, which was performed for free by Asia’s top bariatric surgeon
The pair photographed when Yogita (right) and was five and weighed 7st 4lb and Anisha (left) was three-and-a-half and weighed 5st 1 lb.
The girls with a sample of their vast daily diet, which cost their father all his £35 monthly salary
Their father Rameshbhai Nandwana, 36, from a village in Gujarat, western India, said: ‘I cannot tell you how overjoyed we are. It’s been a long journey to get here and getting the right help with the right results.
‘But we can already see results. We can see their features, they look like little girls. We are very happy and excited to see them getting better.’
The sisters first hit international headlines in 2015 when Yogita weighed 5st 2lb and Amisha weighed 7st 4lb when they were only aged five and three respectively.
Yogita and Amisha used to devour a heavy breakfast of chapatis (Indian bread), and six bananas and eight chapatis, half kilogram of rice and three bowls of curry for lunch and dinner as well as six packets of crisps, five packets of biscuits, a dozen bananas, a litre of milk, and a litre of Coke every day.
Rameshbhai, who earns just Rs 3,000 (£35) a month as a labourer, used to spend all his money on food to fill his children’s large appetite.
Surgeons, including Dr Mahendra Narwaria, operate on Yogita at Asian Bariatrics Clinic, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat
A section of Yogita’s stomach sits on a plate as surgeons finish her operation. The girls finally got surgery after a three year search
He said: ‘I sometimes get paid Rs 100 a day and sometimes there is no work at all. I work in fields, dig wells and do whatever menial job I can to earn money. I used to always be worried about feeding my always-hungry children. I couldn’t leave them cry hungry. And when I had no money, I borrowed it from my brothers and friends.’
But Rameshbhai quickly realised he was in fact hurting his children.
A local government hospital offered to help the girls in 2015 after seeing newspaper articles and advised Rameshbhai not to overfeed his daughters. But even when their diet reduced to two chapatis and mixed vegetable broth for lunch and dinner, the girls continued to gain weight.
For the next three years the family were sent from one hospital and doctor to another across India, seeking help, but no result or long term weight loss managed to help the girls get healthy.
However, last month Asia’s top bariatric surgeon, Dr Mahendra Narwaria, from Asian Bariatrics Clinic, in Ahmedabad, western India, invited the family for a meeting.
The family took a nine-hour train journey from their village to Ahmedabad and met with Dr Narwaria.
Dr Narwaria promised Rameshbhai help, free of charge, and offered the sisters surgery to reduce their stomachs and long term consultations and guidance on permanent weight loss and a course of hormones and vitamins.
‘I had seen the sisters in the newspapers,’ Dr Narwaria said. ‘But I always thought they would call or the government would get in touch for my help. Eventually, I realised they will not call, so I took the step.
The girls with their other sister Bhavika, far left and brother Harsh, right, who already weighs 3st 8lb
The family on their nine-hour train journey from their village to Ahmedabad and met with Dr Narwaria
Rameshbhai, 36, Amisha, six, Harsh, four, Yogita, eight, Bhavika, nine, and mother Pragna Ben, 32, pictured in 2015
‘If left, these children would not see adulthood, they would die young. These children need my help to first reduce their weight, and then go on a long-term plan to stabilise their condition.
‘There is no name for their condition, they have a genetic problem and a Leptin receptor deficiency but if I can help them get better then I will. I never charge children for this surgery, these children urgently need help if there is any chance of them living a long life.’
Last month, on March 6, Yogita an Amisha were taken into surgery to have a portion of their stomachs removed.
By the next day, the girls were on a liquid only diet. And after seven days they began to slowly eat solid foods again, but much smaller portions.
With no fuss at all, the girls were happy to follow their new diet plan, realising they were ‘too fat’.
Before surgery, Yogita said: ‘One boy in my neighbourhood calls me ‘fatty’ and it makes me sad. I don’t like it. I want to lose weight so I can jump around with my friends.’
Yogita and Amisha taking their first steps without help after specialists put them on a restrictive diet because their parents were so concerned for their health in 2015. Despite the diet, they continued to put on weight
The girls riding on a motorbike with their parents, who say the operation has given them hope they can lead normal lives
A month after surgery Yogita had lost 1st 4b and Amisha had lost 1st 5 lb, and both showing positive signs of losing more weight as the weeks pass.
Mother Pragna Ben, now 32, a full time housewife, who has another daughter Bhavika, now nine, who is a normal weight, and youngest son, Harsh, now four, who already weighs 3st 8lb but is not being treated yet, used to spend all her time in the kitchen.
She said: ‘My days used to be filled with making chapatis and curry. And despite the heavy breakfast and lunch, they used to demand food all the time and cry and scream if they’re not fed. I was always in the kitchen cooking for them. But now they eat small meals, it is much more controlled.’
Three years ago Rameshbhai was on the verge of selling one of his kidneys to afford medical help for his daughters, but now he is full of appreciation.
He said: ‘There were times when I wondered if anyone would help. So many people came knocking on my door and they would leave me feeling full of hope, but they just wanted to see my daughters, they had no intentions of helping.
‘Now, thanks to Dr Narwaria, my girls have hope. They now have a chance at living a better future. My wife and I were very naïve all those years ago.
‘We used to think that if they cried for food then we had to feed them. We quickly realised that we had to be strict.
‘But even when they had smaller meals they continued to gain weight. We felt hopeless. Together, as a team, we’ll now make sure our girls have a hope of a healthier future.’