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October 21, 2009

Specialized UK ambulance may transport 'world's heaviest man'

By Brian Farmer and Mark Bulstrode
The Press Association

IPSWICH, England — A 70-stone (980 lb.) man who needs specialist medical treatment could make the 150-mile journey to hospital in a private ambulance purpose-built for obese patients.

The St John Ambulance service said one of its specially-built bariatric ambulances could be used to move 48-year-old Paul Mason — reportedly the world's heaviest man — from his home in Ipswich, Suffolk, to Chichester, West Sussex.

A spokeswoman for St John Ambulance Suffolk said the charity operates four ambulances which have the capacity to carry patients who weigh up to 70 stones.

She said St John officials are in discussion with health bosses responsible for Mr Mason's care.

"St John Ambulance Suffolk is one of the options being considered for that transportation," she said.

"The vehicles and specialist equipment, combined with the dedicated clinical team, have the capacity to transport patients up to 70 stone in weight.

Keith Hotchkiss, operations manager for St John Ambulance Suffolk, said: "We have been in discussions with the primary care trust about the transportation of a patient to enable him to receive surgery.

"As yet, there is no confirmation as to which option the PCT will elect to take."

The St John spokeswoman said medics are dealing with increasing numbers of clinically-obese patients, which is why the bariatric ambulance fleet was created.

Health authority officials said Mr Mason wanted to be "left alone."

They said he was likely to be moved in the next few weeks.

It is understood Mr Mason will undergo gastric bypass surgery at St Richard's Hospital, in Chichester.

Guy Slater, a specialist in bariatric surgery at the NHS hospital, would not comment on Mr Mason's case.

But he said patients who received the treatment experienced a dramatic weight loss.

"Physically, it will very much restrict the amount of food a patient can take," said Mr Slater. "There's also a hormonal effect that restricts the patient's interest in food.

"There's no doubt it results in patients losing weight very quickly. After the surgery, it's almost unheard of for people to gain weight."

Mr Slater said obese patients who undergo the surgery can expect to lose three quarters of their excess weight within a year to 18 months.

He said about 500 obese patients a year were operated on at the hospital, with the heaviest weighing between 40 and 50 stone.

The gastric bypass surgery normally leaves patients hospitalised for up to four days.

Mr Slater said the condition was not normally considered as immediately life-threatening but could eventually result in heart failure if untreated.

Copyright 2009 The Press Association Limited

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