Times are tough for the Nebraska man who once weighed more than 1,000 pounds, but Patrick Deuel says he's trying to keep a positive outlook.
"Oh, I'm still breathing," the 46-year-old Deuel sighed before suddenly letting out a hearty laugh.
Deuel weighed 1,072 pounds in 2004, and in order for him to have lifesaving gastric bypass surgery, a bedroom wall had to be cut out so he could be extracted from his home in Valentine.
After getting down to 370 pounds in late 2006, he was up to 540 in May, the last time he stepped on a scale.
"As far as being able to go out and do the things he wants to do, he's been able to do that," said his wife, Edie. "That's so much better than a number on a scale."
Though Patrick Deuel has put on about 100 pounds in the past year and remains morbidly obese, his health is generally good, said his surgeon, Dr. Fred Harris of Sioux Falls, S.D. If a patient loses 50 percent of his or her excess weight after surgery, it is considered a success, he said.
"Patrick's still ambulatory. He can still drive a car," Harris said. "Last I heard, he can still ride a bike, as opposed to being a week or 10 days from dying."
Deuel acknowledges willpower is not his forte. To the chagrin of his wife and Harris, he still smokes a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. He also has a weakness for chips and salsa.
"I notice that stress eating is something I do well," he said.
Deuel is unemployed. He said he's been going through vocational rehabilitation to determine the type of work that would best suit him. The former restaurant manager said he definitely won't work in food service again. There's too much temptation, he said.
The couple's only income is Patrick Deuel's monthly Social Security check of less than $600.
Running errands, cleaning house and helping his wife find a job occupies much of his time, he said. As for his diet, he said: "Whatever's in the refrigerator is what gets put in the tank."
Deuel said humor is his best coping device.
"It's either curl up in the corner and cry or keep it light and try to get through it," he said. "I could be pretty upset pretty easily, but why should I be?"