On a day in 2010, Paul Mason lay on the largest available surgical bed, and yet fat still cascaded off both sides. He was prepped for a bariatric procedure called a keyhole gastric bypass. Because of his pre-existing conditions, mainly morbid obesity, his chance of living through any surgery was only 50/50. Nobody knew how much anesthetic it took to numb such a huge body without killing the patient.
How did he get there? In the most immediate and literal sense, as told by the GQ journalist Justin Heckert:
[F]ive paramedics in yellow suits wheeled Mason out of his home on the bed where he lived. Using a motorized winch, they hoisted his extra-wide reinforced stretcher into the back of the supersized ambulance that the Suffolk branch of the NHS had scoured all of Great Britain to find…
Engineers had realized before he arrived that the operating room probably wouldn’t be sturdy enough to hold him. After consulting blueprints, they ultimately installed metal supports beneath the floor.
The following summer, at age 50, Mason made the news again. Having lost enough weight to fit into a wheelchair, he was out and about, and suffered a fall when about a mile from home. When paramedics arrived, they treated a head injury, and the fire department transferred him into a reinforced ambulance using specialized lifting equipment.
Some time later, Sarah Lyall wrote for The New York Times about Mason’s life when in his mid-50s. Despite having lost about 650 pounds (which is more than a quarter of a ton) he was in the undesirable position of having about 100 pounds of loose skin hanging off his body “like a living shroud.” It often developed infected areas, and he still had to be in a wheelchair most of the time.
Not a doctor in England was willing to take on the task of excising such a massive amount of tissue. Thanks to media attention in the USA, plastic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Capla heard about Mason’s plight and offered to do the surgery pro bono if he could get to New York. Meanwhile, another American woman, Rebecca Mountain, had seen a BBC documentary about the (former) world’s fattest man. She visited Mason in England and invited him to stay with her in Massachusetts.
So, in mid-2015, about 56 pounds of sagging skin were removed from the patient by Dr. Capla and two other doctors who also waived their fees. The following year, another 20 pounds (or so) of skin were removed from his arms and hips. That may not sound like much, but seeing it spread out on a table is a shocker.
Between Mason and his hostess, a romance developed. When they appeared on a TV show together, she proposed to him on air, and they became engaged. In a later interview, Ms. Mountain reminisced about the enormous emotional attraction the two had shared, and their very satisfactory intimate relationship. She recalled how happy Mason had been when they went out for a movie date, because for the first time in years, he could fit into a theater seat.
(To be continued…)
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “How the World’s Heaviest Man Lost It All,” GQ.com, 03/07/17
Source: “Fattest man hurt in his wheelchair,” Trem.media/news/uk, 07/03/11
Source: “Losing 650 Pounds, and Preparing to Shed a Reminder of That Weight,” NYTimes.com, 04/25/15
Source: “Paul Mason celebrates ‘feather light’ arms after surgeons remove 10lbs of loose skin,” IpswichStar.co.uk, 09/07/16
Source: “The World’s Fattest Man: 10 Years On, review: do documentaries like this really help?,” Telegraph.co.uk, 11/02/21
Image by Emma Forsberg/CC BY 2.0