Monday, December 11, 2017
Health

This man has lost 284 pounds — and counting

VALRICO

By now, many Americans are vigorously walking the treadmill, pushing themselves on the stair climber, straining through situps and lowering their intake of beer and chips, all to meet their New Year's resolution to lose weight. It was mere coincidence that Stephen Pagano started his diet and exercise program on Jan. 2, 2012. He was resolved, but it had nothing to do with New Year's. That just happened to be the date that Pagano reached his limit. At 601.4 pounds, he could hardly bear the pain of standing. He knew that soon he would have to use a motorized cart to get around. "It's either live like this and die, or make a change,'' he thought.

He joined Weight Watchers and, except for a few lapses that made him feel sluggish and depressed, stuck to it. In nine months, he had lost 100 pounds. "When I hit 100, I knew I could do this.''

As of this week, Pagano has lost 284 pounds. Now at just over 317, his goal is to get down to 180 pounds.

Pagano, an unemployed 25-year-old who lives with his mother in Valrico, is a reticent talker. He said he finds it hard to trust people. In school, he was the frequent butt of jokes. He could not fit in a desk, so he sat in a chair off to the side in class. Bullies would call him names, or they would pretend to befriend him, only to get him to do something "so they could all laugh.''

He remembers the relief he felt when he dropped out of school at 16. "It just went quiet.''

In the years since, he continued to put on pounds. Wilma Peoples watched it happen from the sales counter at the local Walgreens. They started talking about it, and she encouraged him to lose weight, telling him he was too young to be so heavy. "We just formed a bond from then on,'' she said. On the day he announced he was on a diet, she didn't believe him. But over the weeks, she noticed the pounds disappearing, and she became a kind of cheerleader for him, encouraging him, telling him to not lose patience.

"I am so proud of him,'' she said.

Pagano's mother is thrilled. "Oh, wow, he's doing great,'' Gloria Madonna said. She has seen him try and fail to lose weight a number of times, and she's not sure why he stuck to it this time.

"I think he was just tired being by himself, being like a loner.''

Madonna is going to Weight Watchers, too. She has lost 40 pounds and wants to lose another 60. She said her son has had a weight problem most of his life; part of it is genetics, she figures, but she wonders whether steroids he was prescribed for allergies as a little boy may have triggered it.

Pagano said he blames no one but himself. He just never made a real effort to control it until now.

"I would eat all times of the day, and I was eating the wrong stuff,'' he said. "A normal dinner would be like 2 pounds of chicken tenders from Walmart, plus a half pound of fries, while drinking a 2-liter (bottle) of Mountain Dew.''

Now, he said, he weighs everything that he eats. He goes to the gym twice a week. But he said his favorite place to walk off weight is Busch Gardens. Using his annual pass, he goes to the park about two days a week.

He has even more reason to go: He can finally fit on the rides. Before, he was too big for the seats. The seat harness would not buckle. Then, one day last November, "it clicked,'' he said, "and I was excited.

"Now I can't get off them,'' he said with a rare grin.

Losing so much weight, however, has left rolls of loose skin, and Pagano worries about being able to afford an operation to remove it.

Such an operation is considered cosmetic, said his physician, Dr. Robert Friedmeyer, though insurance may pay "a small portion'' of it if a case can be made that it would be beneficial to his health. "We'll work on that as soon as he chooses a plastic surgeon,'' Friedmeyer said.

Compounding his difficulties, he'll be dropped from his mother's policy upon turning 26 next month. Being unemployed, he's worried about being able to pay for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Having recently earned his high school equivalency degree, he said he's looking for a job and will work for "anybody that will take me.''

Friedmeyer, who practices in Brandon, seems amazed at Pagano's progress. "He's just phenomenal.''

Friedmeyer has watched his client's blood pressure drop substantially. He has determined that Pagano is no longer pre-diabetic. Apparently, after repeated lapses, something clicked this time. Pagano has stayed on the steady path toward his goal.

Friedmeyer's prognosis: "I think he's going to make it.''

Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.

     
Comments
A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

While fighting back tears, young Keaton Jones couldn’t stop asking one question: Why?"Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What’s the point of it?" he asks his mother while in the passenger seat of a parked car. "Why do you find joy in taking in...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Legalization of marijuana for adults poses problems for people dealing with teens

Legalization of marijuana for adults poses problems for people dealing with teens

WESTMINSTER, Calif. — After Yarly Raygoza attended the drug prevention program at the Boys & Girls Club here last year, she used what she learned to talk a few friends out of using marijuana.The 14-year-old took the class again this year but worries ...
Published: 12/10/17
Millions gained coverage since Obamacare, but many are worse off as premiums soar

Millions gained coverage since Obamacare, but many are worse off as premiums soar

As open enrollment for Affordable Care Act coverage nears the deadline of Dec. 15, and Florida once again leads all states using the federal exchange at healthcare.gov, Heidi and Richard Reiter sit at the kitchen table at their Davie home and struggl...
Published: 12/10/17
A gift of hands: After loss, a man finds hope from healing ones (w/video)

A gift of hands: After loss, a man finds hope from healing ones (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — Francisco Piedra fixed his eyes on the man sitting beside him. His name was Richard Brown, and in his hands he held Piedra’s new ones.The prosthetics were black and plastic. Each one took about 20 hours to build from a 3D printer. Pi...
Published: 12/08/17
The solar eclipse burned a crescent wound on a woman’s retina. She wasn’t wearing proper glasses.

The solar eclipse burned a crescent wound on a woman’s retina. She wasn’t wearing proper glasses.

Like so many others, 26-year-old Nia Payne wanted to view of August’s historic solar eclipse but didn’t have a pair of protective glasses. She walked outside on Staten Island and glanced at the sun - 70 percent was covered - for about six seconds bef...
Published: 12/08/17
At St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, death of a colleague inspires ‘hats with heart’

At St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, death of a colleague inspires ‘hats with heart’

TAMPA — Brittany Weatherby didn’t know how to crochet when she started her job as a registered nurse at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, and she never dreamed of learning how.Maybe her grandma used to, she tried to remember, but Weatherby never really ...
Published: 12/08/17
How kids’ books can introduce a lifetime of fitness

How kids’ books can introduce a lifetime of fitness

When I became a parent last year, it seemed likely my marathon running days were behind me.Running had made me a grittier person. It had given me the very specific self-assurance that comes from calmly enduring 26 miles on foot, a quality that would ...
Published: 12/08/17

Mayo Clinic Q&A: seek attention for mole that bleeds; a look at lung restoration

DON’T WAIT: BLEEDING MOLE SHOULD BE EVALUATED BY A DOCTOR Should I see a health care provider for a mole that bleeds occasionally?Yes. Although it may not be serious, a mole that bleeds is a possible sign of melanoma, a rare but serious skin cancer t...
Published: 12/08/17
Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

When the weather gets cooler, we want to tuck into comfort food in our home. Doing a recipe makeover on a tasty-but-less-than-healthy dish is one of my favorite challenges. Today, I’m taking on a wintertime classic with my Lightened Shepherd’s Pie. T...
Published: 12/08/17
Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

By MELISSA D’ARABIANSummer may officially be the season of green salads, but wintertime versions have advantages that make them worth exploring. The cooler weather seasonable greens are hearty and darker green, which makes them nutrient-rich. And, th...
Published: 12/08/17