SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – His recovery was slowed because of an infection, but a man who once weighed half a ton may soon leave a hospital after losing more than 450 pounds.
Deuel said he isn't worried about returning to a former lifestyle of overeating. He will have health aides at home and a doctor will check on him regularly.
"I've learned a lot while I've been here," he told reporters Tuesday. "I'll just keep doing what I've been doing, and I think things will be fine."
Deuel weighed 1,072 pounds when he checked into Avera McKennan Hospital (search) in June. At the time, he was dying of heart failure. His doctor recommended gastric-bypass surgery but Deuel wasn't healthy enough to undergo the procedure.
The hospital staff structured an exercise program and a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet. The 420 pounds Deuel lost by late October helped control his heart problems and other health issues, including diabetes, and the stomach surgery was performed Oct. 26.
Deuel, who relies on Medicare to pay his hospital bills, can't stay at the hospital indefinitely.
He now weighs about 610 pounds and hopes eventually to slim down to 240 pounds.
A tube that provides extra protein actually has slowed his weight loss. He has lost just 41 pounds since the gastric-bypass surgery.
"He's making progress," rehabilitation doctor Steven Guse said. "He's walking household distances and getting more independent. But he's still got a big challenge ahead of him."
Deuel tried many diets during his youth and early adult life, but the pounds were slow to melt off. He'd get discouraged, take comfort in old routines and return to overeating.
By the mid-1990s, he stopped leaving his house and ended up housebound for seven years. For several months last year, he couldn't leave his bed and depended on his wife, Edith, to clean and care for him.