Numurkah resident Ebonie Johns was ‘‘constantly doing things’’ as a youngster, but was always bigger than her three siblings.
‘‘I had a blood test at the age of 11 and it was determined that my body cannot process fats or sugars,’’ she said.
She experimented with fad diets to lose weight, and was successful, but would quickly pile it back on as soon as she began to eat again.
‘‘I yo-yoed in weight and at the age of 15 I moved out of home,’’ Ms Johns, now 18, said.
Working two jobs to support herself financially, Ms Johns had little time to prepare a decent meal for herself, instead relying on quick and easy takeaway options.
‘‘As I got heavier I got sicker and sicker and suffered from depression,’’ Ms Johns said.
At 16, she refused to eat and was diagnosed with an eating disorder, losing 30kg in two months.
‘‘After being in hospital for a number of weeks I slowly began eating again but lacked the motivation to exercise,’’ Ms Johns said.
The then 16-year-old weighed about 80kg at her debutante ball in August 2015.
In November 2016, at 17, she weighed in at 125kg.
Already battling depression and obesity, that same year she was found to have spina bifida.
‘‘The birth defect affects the spinal cord,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s where there is an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord.’’
The birth defect makes it extremely difficult for Ebonie to work and near impossible to do any strenuous physical labour.
‘‘I had a job recently but my back was so painful I had to quit,’’ she said.
As a result of obesity she also has liver disease and is in need of drastic weight loss to eliminate the possibility of being wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life.
‘‘I can’t work because of my back and I can’t have spine surgery because there is no point with my weight,’’ Ms Johns said.
‘‘But exercise is near impossible because of the pain and I battle with finding motivation because of my mental health illness.’’
Ms Johns said her catch-22 situation meant her last resort was gastric sleeve surgery in Thailand.
She is hoping to raise enough money to afford to pay for it.
‘‘It will remove 80 per cent of my stomach organ, meaning that I won’t be able to eat more than 150ml of food,’’ she said.
‘‘This surgery would be life-changing because the public wait list in Australia for it is around five to seven years.’’
Ms Johns’ goal weight is 70kg and she understands that ‘‘the fat doesn’t disappear’’ and that ‘‘she’ll have to work for it’’.
She said she was trying all she could to eat less, avoid soft drink and save money, but she could only do so much.
‘‘It would be an absolute miracle if I could raise the $15000 for the surgery. I wouldn’t be able to think of the words to describe it besides life-changing.’’ Ms Johns said.
To donate to Ebonie Johns’ GoFundMe page visit gf.me/u/qfh8n
If this article has raised any physical or mental health concerns for you, contact your GP or visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au