Tonight’s episode of “My 600-Lb. Life” gave viewers a glimpse of the life of a morbidly obese woman. This series explores a year during the life of 600-pound individuals trying to regain control over their lives. Ashley Dunn-Bratcher 27 is one of them; she lives in Kemp, Texas and weighs 672 pounds. As the episode begins she is describing how pain is a huge part of her life. Just walking twenty feet to her bathroom upon wakening is pretty much unbearable. As she gets ready to take a shower, she feels like she is going to fall through the floor of the bathtub. Her belly hangs down below her knees, and the pressure on her back is killing her. She is embarrassed that her five-year-old son Patrick is her helper. He does the laundry and climbs up atop the washer when the laundry is done so he can reach it to put it into the dryer. They share a pound of hotdogs for breakfast because they can be microwaved.
Her childhood memories are of her parents divorcing when she was five. Her mother was addicted to drugs and her, and her siblings spent much of their time at the babysitter. When she was six, the babysitter’s husband started molesting her. As the oldest, she protected her brother and sister and let it happen to her. It got better when she was eight, when her mother dropped the three of them off at their father’s house. For thirteen years, she did not see her mother as her father raised them. She still had food as her friend and her father saw that she ate enormous amounts of food and just got larger and larger. She weighed 250 when she was in the sixth grade. At her high-school graduation, she weighed 400 pounds.
She met her husband Jake in high school, and he did not care that she weighed 400 pounds. He made her feel good about herself. He understands the vicious cycle food is for her. Her plate could feed a family of four, and it is her comfort. Jake takes them to town for groceries, but she will not get out of the truck. She gives him a note, and the guys go inside and buy the food. Even in the truck, people stare. As she was sitting inside the truck, a man came over to tell her that he would pray for her. Knowing she was upset, Jake stopped for fast food on the way home to comfort her. He is sad because he can fix anything, but just cannot fix her.
At month one, they are heading to Houston, Texas to see the compassionate and wonderful Dr. Nowzaradan who specializes in weight-loss surgery for patients her size. Other doctors have refused to help her because of her size. At his office, she weighs in at 725 and burst into tears when she saw the number. She told Dr. Nowzaradan about the food she ate, and as he looked at Jake, he saw that he too was overweight and also not making good choices. He told her if she continued down the road she was on; she would not live to see thirty. She was given his diet, and he expected her to lose fifty pounds in the next month. She knows what she must do. Her mother abandoned her, and she is not going to do that to her son.
At month two, the lease was up on their current house, and they are moving nearby. She notices she can walk further without getting out of breath, but they cannot cook yet, so stopped for fast food. She got healthier chicken, but Jake is still eating mega cheeseburgers.
At month three, at Dr. Nowzaradan’s office, she weighed in at 667. It was more than the fifty pounds he wanted her to lose, eight more, in fact. He approved her for weight-loss surgery. At the new home in Kerens, Texas, she was perplexed that she had no clothes to take to the hospital. She recently let her mother, Stephanie back in her life, and she is going to stay with Patrick while she is in the hospital. Her mother knows it is her fault that she turned to food. Her mother is clean now and she feels that if can rid herself of her addiction, she can too.
As the surgery began, Dr. Nowzaradan was concerned because she had a huge hernia. In the waiting room, were Jake and Gayla, her mother-in-law, who also attended the previous appointments with them. During the surgery, Dr. Nowzaradan repaired a huge umbilical hernia and completed the bypass. They will keep her there for a few days until they are sure she will not have any complications from the surgery.
At month four, her current weight was 622 pounds with a total loss of 103. She is doing her own laundry today on Patrick’s first day of school. She drove him to school, and Jake walked him to the door. She is much happier, the cravings are coming back, but she is pushing herself not to let them destroy her.
At month seven, with a 147-pound loss, she now weighs 578. She drove to the supermarket, but getting out of the truck was difficult after a two-year absence. She started shaking and pushed herself through. Jake and her mother are still eating the foods she used to eat, and it is difficult for her. Four days later, she was experiencing extreme abdominal pain and uncontrolled vomiting. Dr. Nowzaradan told her to come into the hospital immediately. He is fearful that she has been abusing her pain medication and could have an ulcer. When they went inside, it was a perforated ulcer and could not fix it laparoscopically. They removed the ulcer, but she is far from out of the woods right now. She will be in critical condition for the next 72 hours.
At month nine, she is still in the hospital because she was taking too much pain medication. She needs all her strength to walk again. She feels like she is starting over and the doctor sent her to see a therapist.
At month ten, her current weight is 564 with a 161-pound loss. She went to see Dr. Santhi Periasamy, and told her about her life. She knows that she must find something to replace food in her life or she will be back to her original weight or higher.
At month eleven, her loss is 198 and current weight is 527. She has been walking further without the walker. When Patrick came home from school, she decided to go fishing with her guys as a surprise. She told Jake and her mother how she felt about the food they were eating, and they agreed to join her on her journey.
At month twelve, she weighed in at the doctor’s office at 470. She had a new hairdo and bright smile. Three weeks later, they went fishing together. Patrick loves his mother bunches and bunches, and now she takes care of him, instead of him taking care of her. Congratulations, Ashley, you have inspired those who suffer from morbid obesity, who felt that they had no hope, as you have shown on this episode of “My 600-Lb. Life.”