TV Review: Half Ton Dad, C4, Wednesday 14 May, 9pm


Lovers of fat porn had a good day yesterday, with “Lose 30 Stone or Die” being followed right up with Half Ton Dad. Inspired by the earlier story of Half Ton Mum (Renee Williams), a previously unseen and unheard-of group of super-morbidly-obese Americans began to clamour for the same help. Naturally, being Americans, they do things bigger and better than we do. You call him “Big Col” at 60 stone? Ha! Kenneth Brumley weighs 1035lbs (almost 74 stone)! Colin was bedridden for two years? Ha! Kenneth has been bedridden for FOUR years! And so the incredible numbers went on.

Kenneth Brumley was both older (at 40) and heavier than Renee Williams, and yet fortunately survived the same medical intervention at the Renaissance Hospital in Houston, Texas. But his extreme size on admission resulted in a lengthy stay (almost a year) while he dieted and underwent additional surgery in preparation for the main gastric bypass.

Even Kenneth’s reinforced bed had not been up to the task. Before the local fire department arrived to take him to hospital, the bed had broken beneath him, leaving him resting on the floor. Unlike other programmes on the subject of extremely fat people, this one did not shy away from the grossest of details. As one of the firefighters said of the removal job: “The first thing I noticed before we even hit the garage was the smell. It just smelled like a huge baby diaper.”

Lest even that oblique reference was too subtle for its audience, the commentary from the medical staff became even more graphic on Kenneth’s arrival at hospital. After being unable to take a bath or a shower for over four years, Kenneth’s daily cleaning regime became a major undertaking. Gastric surgery consultant Dr Lipsen spelled it out for us: “When we see patients like this come in, we just have to do what we can do. Can you imagine these people? The physical therapists, the nurses, and can you imagine having to clean him? Every single day, keep him spruced up, keep his bed clean. Keep his excrement and his urine off of his wounds. It’s a major, major dedication.”

Just in case you were wondering.

The program plays out along by-now familiar lines. The guy is too big for even laparascopic surgery, and so must diet first. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, because while he was at home, Kenneth was consuming 30,000 calories a day. Yes, you read that right. Each day, he would eat enough to keep an average person going for two weeks. Once his diet was restricted to 1200 calories per day, he lost 12 STONE in only 40 days.

deposit.jpgOn top of this, the doctors surgically remove two gigantic deposits of fatty tissue that have grown on each of his legs while he was lying in his bed, and are preventing his legs closing (and therefore make it impossible for him to stand up). The first surgery has to be curtailed after five hours, with only one fatty tumour – the one off his right leg – removed. This single tumour alone weighs 3 stone.

After a few days recuperation, the doctors remove the remaining tumour from his left leg, along with fatty deposits from his abdomen, a total additional weight reduction of 15 stones.

With his legs now capable of coming together, and after three months in hospital, Kenneth attempts to stand up for the first time in four years. He still has another 12 stones to lose, and must prove that he can move around before the chief gastric surgeon, Dr Nowzaradan, will agree to perform the surgery. Which, of course, after another two months and more weight loss, he does.

In the end, 35 stone lighter (at 38 stone) and now capable of standing up for a few minutes a day, Kenneth Brumley returned home to be met by the sight of his daughter trying to stuff a hamburger into the face of his five-month-old granddaughter. It seems the entire family, and countless millions of families like them, could really use some basic health education. But with TV constantly trumpeting the “delights” of fast food, it’s a hard lesson to learn. Americans spend over 100 billion dollars a year on fast food, and this figure rises every year. Lower income families are the most vulnerable, since burger and fries, chicken wings, tacos and pizza are all easy, quick and cheap compared to more healthy alternatives. Like any complex system though, the hidden costs of this fast food epidemic are huge. And it looks like the “developed” world will be paying that cost for some time to come.

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