Tonight’s season premiere episode of “My 600-Lb. Life” gave viewers a glimpse into the pivotal moments that changed the lives of morbidly obese people. This series explores a year in the life of 600-pound individuals trying to regain control of their lives. The most important person in their lives is the compassionate and wonderful Dr. Nowzaradan who specializes in weight-loss surgery for patients their size.
This episode is titled “Moments of Truth,” and contains actual surgical procedures; TLC warns that viewer discretion is advised. “My 600-Lb. Life” has documented extreme weight-loss for over ten years. Thirty-four people have undergone fifty-four surgeries and have lost over 9,000 pounds.
Melissa Morris is 31-years-old with a starting weight of 653 pounds. In 2006, Melissa was one of the heaviest people to undergo weight-loss surgery. Dr. Nowzaradan stated that Melissa was one of his most successful cases. Her desire to have a child kept her going in the right direction. In everyone’s weight-loss story, there are defining moments that change the course of their journey. Her husband Chris recalls that they would stop for food every day to avoid having to cook. Chris became her enabler and she ate all day long. People would say nasty things out loud and make her cry. However, during the ten months following her weight-loss surgery, Melissa lost nearly 200 pounds. She was finally able to fit on an airplane and visited her mother. Three years after her weight-loss surgery, Melissa had lost over 500 pounds and weighed 137 pounds. Twelve years of praying paid off, but she had a miscarriage. They decided to keep trying, and Melissa and Chris are now expecting their third child.
While every patient’s story is unique, at times Dr. Nowzaradan faces unusual challenges. Charity Pierce was 39 years-old, and her starting weight was 778 pounds. She started storing fat on certain parts of her body and required a lot of care. She spent many years being immobile and developed many sores on the folds of her skin that refused to heal. Charity lost 128 pounds before undergoing weight-loss surgery. She desperately needed skin surgery and continued to lose weight and follow Dr. Now’s program to lose more weight to have the surgery to remove the skin deformity that inhibits her mobility. One month later, she returned to the hospital for skin surgery where Dr. Now removed 57 pounds of fat and tissue that hindered her ability to walk. She continued to lose weight after the tissue removal.
Dr. Nowzaradan explained that sometimes they got a patient and no matter how hard they try to get through to them; they don’t change or understand the severity of their situation. Penny Saeger, 45, with a starting weight of 530 pounds did not want to change. She continued to gain weight, even in the hospital. Dr. Now sent a nutritionist to help her and due to missed appointments, Dr. Now called Penny into the hospital for a weigh-in. He gave her every opportunity to succeed, but there comes a time when they must decide if they are going to follow through with their part. Dr. Now does not want ever to give up on a patient, but he let her go home and advised her if she ever wanted to return, he would be there for her.
In 2006, one of Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients achieved shocking weight-loss in a short amount of time. Donald Shelton at 34 weighed 675 pounds. He lost nearly 400 pounds in one year. He began to experience unexpected complications with his condition. When he took a bad fall at home, he went to the hospital. He spoke to his mother on the phone incoherently. She was not alarmed, but the next day he slipped into a coma. As the doctors struggled to find the cause of the coma, a friend admitted that Donald had been using drugs. Ultimately, Donald was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune syndrome called Guillain-Barre. Any previous drug use was unrelated to the illness. Dr. Now never gave up and six months later; Donald woke up.
Often, it takes an intervention from family members to help patients find the strength to change. Marla McCants at 43 weighed 800 pounds. After weight-loss surgery, Marla refused to walk for over a month. The doctor sent her home, but after four months, she still refused to walk. Dr. Now even came to her house and watched her stand with much help. Once her confidence was apparent, she tried again and her smile was exactly what they waited for.
Sometimes a wake-up call is the only way to get a patient back on track. Tara Taylor at 35 weighed 606 pounds. She looked forward to having skin surgery, but her weight remained the same contrary to her affirmation that she was following the program. She walked out of the office and was in denial. Soon, she realized that what he said was true, and she followed through on the weight loss regimen. Ultimately, Tara was approved for skin surgery and continues to make progress with her weight-loss.
For weight-loss patients, it’s not just about making physical progress, but also emotional and mental changes. Chuck Turner at 45 weighed 693 pounds. Chuck lost 100 pounds in four months, but there were habits in his marriage that also needed to change. After she had minor surgery, she needed Chuck to pick up her medicine at the pharmacy, but he felt it was insignificant. Tension in Chuck and Nissa’s relationship continued to escalate. After three years of marriage, Nissa served Chuck with divorce papers. Chuck did everything to win Nissa back, and she agreed on a trial basis to return. Chuck lost over 400 pounds.
Family support is one of the most important factors in a patient’s success with weight loss. Zsalynn Whitworth at 42 weighed 597 pounds. When she decided to change her life; she did not realize that the person closest to her would stand in her way. Gareth desired a fat wife and would not have it any other way. She realized that she might not see her daughter grow up. Once she had the surgery, he picked her up and drove right to the drive-through at the fast-food restaurant. He ordered a lot of food, but it did not appeal to her. Without his support, she continued her weight-loss journey and she and her husband divorced. He continues to be active in their daughter’s life. She underwent skin surgery last year and continues to make good progress with her weight loss.
Many patients face medical emergencies as the turning point on their weight-loss journey. Bettie Jo Elmore at 25 weighed 654 pounds. Her husband Josh had to help her with showering and even had to wipe her butt when she used the bathroom. In her case, it took a near-death trip to the emergency room to change her life.
Olivia Cruz at 46 weighed 548 pounds. She was trapped in her house because of a mass on her leg and belly. She had the 41-pound tumor removed, she was able to walk and continued to lose weight.
Over the past ten years, Dr. Nowzaradan has offered hope for patients with nowhere else to turn. Dr. Nowzaradan feels rewarded each time a patient loses weight and gets his or her life back. God bless you, Dr. Nowzaradan, you are an angel walking among us.