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You go to a college football game. You find your seat. You stand and cheer. No big deal.
But when you are Patrick Deuel and three months ago you weighed 1,072 pounds, going to a college football game is not just a very big deal. It's what you live for.
Deuel's goal is to be able to attend the very first Nebraska football game of his life, inhale the fresh air and "become part of that sea of red," he says.
That's a lot of red. This is a man who weighed 90 pounds in kindergarten, whose arms weigh 120 pounds apiece and who can't wait to fit back into his XXXXXXXXXXL Huskers T-shirt. And you thought you were Nebraska's biggest fan.
It's not going to be easy. Until June, the 42-year-old former pancake house manager hadn't been out of his bed in at least seven months. Hadn't been out of his house in Valentine, Neb., in seven years. (The doors weren't big enough.) Couldn't lie on his back to sleep because there was so much fat on his chest that his lungs couldn't expand. Couldn't roll over without the help of two or three people.
"He was terminal," says his doctor, Frederick Harris. "He was going to die."
For 14 years, Patrick and his wife, Edith, had been begging for help. Insurance companies he approached kept saying that treatment for his morbid obesity--partly the fault of his genes--was "cosmetic" and refused to help.
No hospital within 400 miles of Valentine was willing to take a man who weighed almost as much as the entire Nebraska defensive line. The Deuels were trapped. Meanwhile, adults and high school kids drove by the house shouting obscenities at Patrick.
Enter Dr. Harris, who refused to let Deuel die. Harris pleaded with Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.Dak., to take Deuel, even though the facility wouldn't be able to collect the hundreds of thousands of dollars his care would cost. When the hospital said yes, the problems really began.
It took a specially equipped ambulance--one of only six in the country--to transport the half-ton man. When the vehicle got to Deuel's house, a local rescue team had already cut down the wall between the garage and his bedroom with a saw.