Monday, November 9, 2009

Just A Good 'Ole GREAT BIG Boy...

Got called out on a bariatric call a couple of months ago.  That's a nice way of describing, what those in fire and EMS call a "land whale."  550 lbs on the hoof.  Thank heavens for hose monkeys.  My back's already messed up.

Poor guy hadn't been out of his home in years... and lived in squalor.  His normal-sized wife had that gaunt, beleagured look that is usually only seen on the faces of the families of terminal cancer patients during the last month or so of their loved ones' lives.  She obviously had to attend to all of his various and sundry personal needs, due to his chronic lack of mobility.  That thought alone is almost enough to send a non-gagger running for a toilet.

It's hard to fathom.  How do people get that way?  It's easy to be a smart-ass, and say "One Twinkie at a time."  But typically it runs much deeper than that, and is therefore much harder to overcome.  Thin people don't understand that.  Because of their own relative fitness, they can't see this condition in terms of anything but "geez, push away from the freakin table and take a walk!"  Consequently, they find it way too easy to look down their nose at those who strain against the crushing weight of obesity.

In my own case, I've struggled with my weight ever since I was a young man.  Now, at 265 lbs., I'm gradually slimming down and hope to return to a somewhat "normal" weight within the next year.  I have to.  My health depends on it.  Probably my very life.  But it's insanely difficult, because for many people, "self control" has little to nothing to do with their weight problem.  For many, it has more to do with depression, mood disorders, metabolic problems, hypothyroidism, etc.  Depression is the one that got me.

Alcoholics and drug addicts self-medicate their problems away.  We feel sorry for them, and lovingly spirit them away to rehab centers where they can come to terms with their "disease."  Fat people are trucked off to fat farms with a sneer of judgmental disgust.

Just like alcoholics and addicts self-medicate, obese people eat their problems away.  It has the same effect as alcohol or drugs, and is far more insideous... for one, it isn't illegal.  And food is readily available.  And it gives you instant gratification.  Of course, when you eat, you feel bad, both physically and psychologically.  So you become more depressed.  And you keep the Depression Monster away by eating and gaining that temporary "food high."  It's the Vicious Cycle From Hell.

And boy, do obese people pay the price.  They suffer physically from everything from diabetes to chronic ulcers and infections to chronic breathing and cardiac/circulatory problems.   Not to mention the beating their joints take when they DO try to walk... or heaven forbid, go up or down stairs.

Psychologically and emotionally, they suffer from constant, unwavering indignties, public ridicule, abject discrimination, and withering humiliation.  And yet, none of this compares with the depth of their own self-loathing.

Heck, even the firefighters and EMS personnel laugh at them behind their backs.  And that deeply troubles me.  I got into this business to help people.  And that call gave me cause to rethink the way I feel about bariatric patients, and to seriously adjust my attitude towards them and how I approach their treatment.  I hope it sticks.  I don't want to be "that guy" who contributed to anyone else's pain... ever again.  Whether they know about it or not..