Two years ago, Kaitlyn Smith, Tennessee 19-year-old, weighed 414 pounds. Today, after losing 208 pounds through her relentless exercise plan and a meticulous diet, she weighs an incredible 206 pounds. In addition to her remarkable weight loss, all of her sweat, soreness, and tears over the past two years paid off: after seeing a story about Smith’s astonishing progress, Dr. Michael Salzhauer of Miami, Florida offered her a pro bono skin surgery offer.
Smith had first considered getting a gastric bypass surgery. After an unencouraging and difficult meeting with a doctor, she decided that she would lose the weight on her own. She began working out to a Beachbody program at home, closely monitoring her diet, and joining groups with others who were adamant towards weight loss. It took two years of rigorous persistence and courage for Smith to cut her weight in half.
Smith lost so much weight that there is excess skin all over her body, impeding her ability to wear regular clothes and live comfortably. Her skin often gets caught on zippers, infected easily, and causes blood blisters. It also hangs down, causing pain in her hips and back. “It’s the only thing keeping me from feeling completely beautiful,” she says. Though these surgeries cause Smith medical adversity, they are considered cosmetic by insurance companies, so she needed to fundraise to subsidize the costs.
To finally finish her fight against obesity, Smith sought to raise $30,000 on GoFundMe in order to undergo three skin surgeries (chest and stomach, arms, and legs). In the beginning, before Dr. Salzhauer’s charitable offer, she raised over $12,000 for her surgeries (which will now be used for Smith’s three trips to Miami). With over 1.5k shares of her story, she has received an outpour of support from fans on Facebook and supporters. Most importantly, People Magazine wrote about her inspirational story in their “Half Their Size” issue, which made many more aware of her amazing achievement. “The feedback has been amazing, and so many people have reached out,” she told PEOPLE.
It was because of the PEOPLE article that Salzhauer learnt about Smith’s story. “It was late in the afternoon on Christmas, and my sister sent me a text message saying I should check out this story on PEOPLE.com,” says Salzhauer. “It really resonated with me.” Salzhauer does pro bono surgeries at least once or twice a year, so he’s always on the lookout for “deserving and inspired people…[Smith] for sure fits the bill. It’s a tremendous accomplishment for anybody to lose 200 lbs. – especially the way she did it, with diet and exercise.”
Smith’s first surgery is scheduled for mid-February of 2015, with the others following soon after. Dr. Salzhauer still wants Smith to continue maintaining her weight loss program, because he prefers that his patients have a BMI (body mass index) of 32 or lower, and Smith’s is currently 34. Dr. Salzhauer’s generosity will enable Smith to return to being a normal 19 year old girl, finally given the opportunity to be confident with her body. “Overall, I am so excited for her,” he says. “It’s the reason I went to medical school and became a plastic surgeon. It’s a life-changer, and I am happy to do it.”
In a world where weight loss tops the charts for New Years’ resolutions and obesity seems increasingly difficult to defeat, Smith’s adamant attitude is an inspiration to all individuals striving towards weight loss, particularly those who feel like they’re past help.
Smith’s Facebook is open for anyone to see, so you can keep updated about her progress and watch her take on life with her new body!