Feral Carol.


“Danny” was big. Danny was the kind of big that made people do a double take. Danny was the kind of big for which you had to have special clothes made ... 

Danny was the kind of big that was deadly.

The kind of big that Danny was made him virtually helpless—he couldn’t tie his own shoes, get up from a chair or drive a car. He resembled one of those Weeble toys from the 70s. It was as if he had been blown up from the neck down like a helium balloon—like you could pop him and he’d fizzle away into nothingness. 

I looked at Danny like he was a sideshow freak. I didn’t mean to, but he was so far beyond my realm of experience that it was hard not to stare. 

There were other super obese patients on the unit, but Danny took the cake. I wondered how many cakes it had taken to help Danny get that big.

His sweet boyishness drew me in though. I was curious: who would have married this guy? He was probably in his 30s and spoke of a wife who literally had to do everything for him—essentially, she had become his caretaker. He said that they had hoped to have a family one day, but so far his size had made that impossible. 

I remember the day Danny got down on the floor to do calisthenics. While he looked like a Weeble, Danny couldn’t even begin to get back up when he fell down. The hospital staff had to engage in a veritable tug-of-war to get him back to an upright position. Sweet, helpless Danny had become a prisoner in his own body. I knew just how he felt.

Despite all his troubles, Danny had something that I lacked: hope. He believed that there were better days ahead. His conviction that a different way of life was his for the taking was strong. Apparently, he knew someone who had come through this program and emerged a changed man. Whoever that mystery guy was, he had told Danny about this place and helped him to get in.

I had never met a girl who used to be sick, but wasn’t sick anymore, so I had skepticism in spades. Danny’s hope was endearing, but I wasn’t about to let it infect me. I had my moments when I caught the “rah, rah, let’s change our lives” virus, but I was still jaded as f*ck.

The reality was, Danny had about 400 pounds to lose; hope seemed like a bullet best dodged.

I mean sure, while he was here they would control what he ate and the pounds would roll off—that’s how it went with most of the super obese patients. You take a giant person who had previously been consuming god knows how many thousands of calories a day and put them on a strict calorie-controlled diet of whole foods and the pounds vanished—that was just math. Real life, with drive thrus on every corner, was going to open up a brand new set of challenges for Danny and the other giant people. Oh, and for me, too. We’d all have to make our own decisions about eating soon enough.

Restaurants and grocery stores and fast food, oh my!

There was a part of me that believed that left to my own devices, I could be as big as Danny in no time. I felt so fragile. Too many pizzas, and I’d be Danny; too many missed meals, and I’d be Kim.

What could I do to just be me, but normal? I’d always wanted that so much.

Another mind-boggling patient arrived on the scene near the end of my stay. I never caught her name, so in my head she will always be Feral Carol. She wasn’t like me. She wasn’t like anything I had ever seen.

Feral Carol was a scene stealer, a show stopper … a multi-car pileup in Garanimal-sized pants. 

There wasn’t a soul in the hallway who could look away as they wheeled her in screeching and flailing. With her lack of restraint, I thought actual restraints might have been in order. This was a psychiatric facility after all, and Feral Carol was fit to be tied. We maintained rapt interest as feline-like howls echoed from Feral Carol’s overdeveloped bulimic jowls.

She was the sickest of us all.

I guess her histrionics stemmed from an erroneous belief that she was on her way home. This place was so far from there. If anybody was going home, it wasn’t going to be her. I had a pretty strong feeling that this angry kitty wasn’t about to be tamed in 28 days. 

Rumor had it that Feral Carol’s entire life had been spent eating and throwing up. And then, they found her on the bathroom floor. Feral Carol didn’t have an eating disorder—she was an eating disorder.

I wish I could offer more specifics like her age, who had been replenishing her food stash, or how the situation had progressed to the point of no return, but I don’t have those answers. I can tell you she refused to eat enough meals in a row that they sent her back to the feeding tube. I knew for certain that I didn’t want whatever it was that Feral Carol had cultivated. 

I wanted to be the fairest of them all, not the sickest. 

The feeding tube threat was no joke. They whisked Feral Carol away in no time. I think someone else spent some time over in the medical wing during my stay, too—Tom maybe? There were so many people on death’s door, it’s hard to remember who consistently knocked the loudest.