Original Air Date:
Thursday, March 26, 2009
What do you think of people who are super morbidly obese? Oprah posed this question to the audience and viewers as she opened the show. Comments from the audience ranged from lazy, to a health risk, to sad. Oprah's goal in doing a show of this kind is to do her part to put a face to extreme obesity and help viewers and society as a whole look to people with this disease with less judgment and more empathy. How would you feel to be trapped inside your own body?
Renee - TLC's "Half Ton Mom":
Renee - a daughter, sister, and mother of 2 - has always struggled with her weight for as long as she could remember. At 24, Renee weighed over 500 pounds, but was able to take care of her daughters Marina and Mariah on her own. When she suffered a terrible injury from a car accident in 2003, Renee became bedridden and used food to deal with the loneliness and depression. After 4 years in bed, at the age of 29, Renee had reached nearly 900 pounds. Able to sit up, but not turn over, Renee was in pain and had bed sores she couldn't see or treat herself.
Renee's daughters worry about their weight and are sensitive to kids who make fun of them at school. To solve her extreme weight condition, Renee decided to get gastric bypass surgery, but 12 surgeries turned her down. Renee decided to use the webcam with her laptop to reach out for help. Her wishes were granted when a hospital in Houston saw her pleas for help and agreed to perform the surgery. Renee felt like a sideshow when it took 8 men from the fire department to get her out of her home. Renee's parents Elijah and Nellie were with her in the hospital to see the success of her surgery.
Just 12 days after the surgery was completed, Renee's health took a turn for the worst. With chest pain and difficulty breathing, Renee went into full cardiac arrest and passed away from the stress on her heart.
Oprah welcomed Renee's daughters to the show, 2 years to the day that their mother passed away. Marina, now 15, sat with Oprah and shared that the experience has been very hard for them and feels like it happened a few days ago, not 2 years. Marina shared how she didn't see her mother as others did; not the weight, just her best friend. Marina was glad to get her mother's story out to help others.
Billy - TLC's "Half Ton Teen":
The next story came from TLC's show, Half Ton Teen, which followed the life and struggle of Billy, and 18 year-old high school senior who weighed 800 pounds. Billy's parents, Barbara and Bill, shared how he was born a normal sized baby and became bigger over time. At 18, Billy spends his days in a chair, struggling just to make it to the bathroom and back every day. Having his mother prepare his food and bathe him, Billy feels like a prisoner in his own body, unable to do much of anything. Barbara shared that since the death of her first son at 19 months, she overindulged Billy and doesn't know how to stop.
Billy and his parents opted for bariatric surgery to save his life and get him started on his weight loss journey. Billy had 70 pounds of his abdomen removed and a blood clot in his leg operated on before he was able to have the gastric sleeve procedure. To prep for the surgery, Billy was required to stay in the hospital for 30 days on a strict diet to get his body ready. Billy's surgery was successful, and since he has lost 300 pounds.
Billy, now 20, and his mother appeared via Skype to share how his life has changed. Still losing weight and moving more, Billy is on his way to a happier life.
Oprah talked with Barbara about how she was enabling her son by buying him the treats he wanted and continuing to make unhealthy food, even when he could hardly walk. When Billy was asked if he blamed his mother, he responded that no one made him eat what he did, or forced him to make those choices, so the only one to blame is himself.
Billy shared that he would like people to see the individual in the situation, not just their weight - that there are many roads that lead a person to become extremely obese, and people need to choose empathy over judgment - making them feel bad won't help the situation.
Ruby's Inside Look at Brookhaven Rehab Center in NY:
Ruby Gettinger from the Style Network's reality show Ruby returned to Oprah to share about her journey to Brookhaven Rehab Center in NY, where she visited to go behind-the-scenes of weight treatment. Brookhaven treats 60-80 patients weighing between 300 and 800 pounds, some near death.
Ruby met Dennis, a 61 year-old married father of 3 whose highest weight was 630 pounds. Before going to Brookhaven, Dennis hadn't left his house in a year and had to depend on his wife for everything, even going to the bathroom. In a deep depression, Dennis decided to make a change. Dennis has lost 200 pounds and is still going.
Ruby also talked to Linda, a 46 year-old mother of 4 whose weight reached 670 pounds. Linda was homebound before going to Brookhaven for treatment. It was hard for Linda to have her children help her while in her bed and get made fun of at school, so she decided it was time to get help. In 2 months Linda has lost 48 pounds and is on her way.
Dr. Bruner - Bariatrics:
Dr. Bruner joined Oprah via Skype from VA to speak about the medical side of extreme obesity. Ruby had mentioned that even reaching 700 pounds, her doctors never spoke to her about the risks of her weight or suggested she make changes. Oprah questioned Dr. Bruner about this avoidance by doctors, and asked if it was common. Dr. Bruner responded that doctors are not trained to handle obesity and at times are prejudice against their patients. Extreme obesity is a serious disease, says Dr. Bruner, with many layers that need to be treated and examined, not ignored.
Dr. Bruner also touched on the misconceptions people have about those suffering from obesity, including being stupid, uneducated, or having no will or drive in life. These misconceptions, stated Dr. Bruner, are so far from the truth. Obesity should be treated like the addiction and disease that it is, and not have those suffering be treated like outcasts.