Doctors Put Half-Ton Man on Emergency Diet

Nebraska man who once weighed more than half a ton has lost 321 pounds in a Sioux Falls hospital, with a goal of losing another 450 pounds.

Patrick Deuel, 42, of Valentine, weighed 1,072 pounds when he was admitted to Avera McKennan Hospital (search ) eight weeks ago. Deuel, who is just under 6 feet tall, is on a 1,200 calorie-a-day diet.

He wants to lose at least another 450 pounds or more in the next year and a half to two years. He is being supervised by a team of eight doctors.

"If we hadn't gotten him here, he'd be dead now," said Fred Harris, Deuel's lead doctor.

Deuel said he knew he had to act. The former restaurant manager has been bedridden since last fall and hadn't been out of his Nebraska home for social reasons in seven years.

Heart failure, thyroid problems, diabetes, pulmonary hypertension (search ) and arthritis — the physical effects of obesity — were robbing him of life. Deuel needed an oxygen machine to breathe and help just to roll over in bed.

A group known as the League of Human Dignity (search ) helped arrange for Deuel to be driven to a local livestock scale, where he could be weighed.

According to the Guinness World Records Web site, the record for heaviest man in the world is 1,397 pounds, held by Jon Brower Minnoch (search ) of Bainbridge, Wash., who died in 1983.

Twenty-one percent of U.S. adults are obese, defined as at least 30 pounds overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (search ). That's almost twice as many as in 1990.

Deuel said the emotional toll of his obesity has been overwhelming. "Until recently, I wasn't able to see any light at the end of the tunnel," he said Monday from his hospital bed.

Deuel and his wife, Edith, said they knew he was dying early this year but that it took months to find a hospital and get him to it.

"I got scared because I couldn't help him anymore, and I didn't know who would help him," Edith Deuel said. "His body was just so sick, he was just hanging on by his fingernails."

Deuel lived closer to hospitals in Nebraska and Colorado. But he relies on Medicare, which aids the disabled, and he said Medicare wasn't willing to cover all the treatment he needed. And hospitals closer to his home balked at admitting him.

Avera McKennan was the first to accept him. Harris said Deuel's care could cost millions of dollars, much of which the hospital may have to cover.

Deuel couldn't fit into a standard ambulance, so medical officials found one in Denver that has a special gurney and ramps. At Avera McKennan, workers joined two beds for Deuel.

Deuel and his wife said they decided to tell their story to show that hope and perseverance can pay off. They also said they want people to know that obesity is a health problem that's getting worse — and that every state should have a hospital and ambulance service equipped and willing to handle obese people.

High-fat, high-calorie foods and sedentary lifestyles play a big role in obesity. But for Deuel, who has battled his weight all his life, genetics is partly to blame. He weighed about 90 pounds in kindergarten and more than 250 pounds in middle school.

"Even though he's faced negativity all these years, he's not a negative person," Edith Deuel said. "He's almost always been able to stay bubbly and make jokes and be happy."

Deuel tried many diets. Even now, he sometimes longs for his favorites: pizza and burritos.

He said he wants to lose enough weight so that he will have a better chance with gastric bypass surgery. Deuel said he thinks he'll need to lose another 250 pounds for that.

The increasingly popular surgery reduces the size of the stomach, which limits the food someone can hold without getting sick.

One goal is to walk out of Avera McKennan Hospital. He also wants to go to a Nebraska Cornhuskers home football game.

But more than anything else, he just wants to enjoy spending evenings walking with his wife, free of the weight that has denied him simple pleasures.

"I'd like that," he said, smiling at his wife. "I'd really like that."