I made the mistake last night of randomly leaving the television on while writing. Normally if it’s on it is deliberate and on one of my favorite sci-fi shows. I wasn’t particularly paying attention to what was on or what channel it happened to be on – at first. Then I glanced up from the laptop to see the guide screen and see that on one channel there was a story about this 600+ lb woman. Out of curiosity and distraction from Dorian Gray, the book I was writing about, and possibly caffeine deprivation, I clicked on the program.
Seeing this woman and her struggle to lose over 100 lbs so she could get down to 500 lbs and have surgery, I realized I was actually paying attention. I for whatever reason couldn’t seem to get away from the program. It was an hour long and I kept looking away to write but then found myself oddly interested again. I really expected there to be a big finale where she went to the hospital, most likely at the end of the hour.
Throughout the hour the doctor was interviewed several times. Apparently, this guy offers a guarantee to his patients that they will lose the weight. His goal for this woman was to get her down to 500 lbs, a weight at which another doctor agreed to operate and perform gastric bypass surgery. The doctor said they would reduce the size of this woman’s stomach by 90% and this would stem her hunger. She had an addiction to food and the reduced stomach size would prevent her from eating too much.
So the cameras follow her diet plan and interaction with her six daughters and their kids. They also interview the doctor on how perilous her condition was. At her weight, her heart was put under too much stress as were her other organs. Her liver was three times the size of a normal liver and covered in fatty tissue. She was in great danger of an early death due to her obesity. Just having the bypass surgery, due to her weight, was a great danger.
The woman had been bed bound for years, hadn’t walked or stood up at all for years. On the occasions when she was transported to the hospital to be weighed, it took six paramedics to come into the house and get her out. All six paramedics were required to lift her from the stretcher to the scale. She was unable to walk at all. On her first trip to the hospital, after ten months of dieting, she was weighed.
The doctor had been told by her and her daughters that she had been serious about the weight loss and stuck to the diet plan. A few months prior she had weighed near 500 lbs. It was only two months since that weight and now she weighed in at 632 lbs. She had gained back all the weight she had lost in only two months. She had not stuck to the diet plan despite the doctor (according to the show) hand delivering her diet meals.
Later it is revealed that she had been eating the diet meals and other meals left in her room by family for other family members. She had also been getting neighbors to bring her meals. She agreed to try again but after another few months, she weighed in at 680+ lbs. I don’t remember the exact number but it was near 680.
In dire need of a solution, the doctor finally locates a surgeon willing to operate on someone her size. It is a very risky surgery due to the problems associated with even getting an IV line in past her layers of fat on her arm to reach a vein. They have to use an ultrasound machine to locate a vein beneath the fatty tissue. Even with the line in, there is a big risk of blood clots, especially after the surgery since she can’t walk yet.
I fully expected a happy ending since most of these types of shows end happily. She has the surgery and is in the rehab facility for a while. But then the story takes an unfortunate and unexpected turn. The woman, although losing weight rapidly, is unhappy and checks herself out of the facility to return home. Nine weeks later, bed bound at her house, she died. There was no cause of death listed but it is inferred that it is due to the weakened state of her internal organs from the excessive weight.
I was caught off guard and found myself very disappointed. As much as I get a little tired of shows always having a happy ending, I really didn’t expect to see one end so unhappily. Why would they even put that story on television as entertainment? The program up next was called Neat Freaks and I decided I was done for the night with whatever channel this was. No Neat Freaks for me.
The thing that stuck with me about this show was not just the morbid obesity of the woman but also her untimely death at the age of 42. I understand that life is like that. That is what makes it life and not the stuff of primetime entertainment. You abuse your body by unhealthy habits and unhealthy behaviors and eventually, you pay the ultimate price.
Most of us over the age of thirty have experienced the repercussions of a carefree lifestyle. Our backs and our knees hurt from the years of sporting activities or incorrect lifting of heavy objects, skydiving, bungee jumping, working, or just plain living in general. After a while, your body starts to feel the effects of aging. It usually starts with minor aches and pains and progresses to worsening symptoms. Our skin begins to show the effects of years and years of sun damage. It starts to wrinkle and sag as it loses its elasticity.
For some their hearts weaken and for others it is the liver. Still other people suffer from chronic illnesses or cancer or stiffening joints or whatever. The decline of the human body with age is inevitable. Everyone’s body will eventually give out. That is one fact of life we cannot change.
As much as I accept the facts of life, I don’t necessarily want to see it on television under the guise of entertainment. I watch television to escape reality for a while. I watch shows where people travel through wormholes, they always manage to escape the bad guys or the deadly virus or whichever enemy of the week. And still other shows where the people are immortal or have super powers or at the very least, have excellent make-up which makes them look much younger and healthier than they are.
I guess maybe I just despise reality shows in general. I know enough regular people in my own life, I don’t need or care to see real people’s lives on television. If I really felt the desire to see real people on screen, I would video tape my neighbors. I of course won’t ever do that because they’re boring. Real people and reality are well, not as exciting and predictable as fantasy. My neighbors are a prime example.
As far as I can tell by their lackadaisical lounging in their driveway smoking cigarettes at all hours of the day and night – they are not being called upon on a regular basis to save the Earth from certain destruction by evil aliens. They also do not time travel or make use of wormholes to travel the universe. I seriously doubt they can fly as I see them quite often walking to and from the store. I doubt they have any super powers at all and appear to have no super powered friends.
I’m not even all that picky about the content of television shows. I occasionally watch the CSI episode or Bones or other crime shows. Even they generally wrap everything up in a nice conveniently explained bow at the end of the episode. It’s a fairly simple formula, someone or some group commits some terrible crime, they bring in the amazing technology and brilliant deductive reasoning skills of the team, things then go wrong for a bit, the bad guys seem to be winning and then at the end of the episode there is some break through and it all works out.
Reading this post, I realized it isn’t really the stuff of a blog of the week for me. This one is more like a rant on my distaste for today’s television shows. To sum it up and end this tirade, I’ll just say that entertainment television channels were not meant to show reality. That is what documentaries and the news are for. In fact, Fox News did a special on this very same woman. I don't have a problem with documentaries or news channels showing these things, I just don't want to see it on a channel claiming to be one which shows entertainment. I did not find this woman's struggle and eventual death to be 'entertainment.' They trivialized her life and death by portraying it as entertainment. Entertainment is fantastical, surreal, extraordinary and more than what is possible in the real world.