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When the doorbell rang, Hector struggled to walk the 40 feet to open the door. Then, he collapsed in a nearby recliner and died.
Hector’s mother, Elena was returning from a hospital stay and had been hoping to surprise her son but didn’t have her house keys, so she rang the doorbell. Hector’s last words were, “'Mama, I can’t breathe,' and that was it,” she tearfully recalls.
Hector was 49 years old and had struggled with obesity his entire life. He weighed almost 600 pounds at the time of his death.
Before he died, Hector opened up about his struggles with obesity to a photographer and reporter from The San Antonio Express-News and taped a video message.
"Life is going on, and I’m missing it, and I’ve been missing it my whole life," he says in the video. "I’m a cautionary tale. My life is a cautionary tale, and I hope that cautionary tale doesn’t end in my death."
Later, Hector adds, “If I don’t scare people, no one will. If they don’t listen to me, they’re not going to listen to nobody. If they don’t believe it can happen, I’m here to tell you it can happen.”
Hector lost more than 100 pounds after having gastric bypass surgery, and later lost more than 100 pounds again in order to have knee replacement surgery. But both times, depression and decreased mobility led him to regain the weight. Hector also suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, which is a progressive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. Hector said that he was treated like an outcast and felt isolated because of his obesity. He wrote a children's book about a rhinoceros whose horn was in the wrong place to teach children to accept people who are different.
"People always made judgments about me just because I'm overweight, and they don't have a clue who I am," he says in the video. "It's almost like they expected that I was something less because I was overweight."
Elena joins The Doctors a few months after Hector's death to share his story in hopes of inspiring others to make a change before it's too late.
“Take one day at a time. Don’t say, 'I have to lose 100 pounds.' You’re going to fail. No, one day at a time," she says. "OK, Lord, 'Am I really hungry? Is this just a habit?’ Because you can actually be full with just a small portion of food, but it just becomes a habit of eating more than what you should and eating larger portions and picking the wrong foods.”
Before he died, Elena promised her son she would lose weight, and she already has lost 16 pounds. The Doctors offer Elena tools to help her honor her promise to Hector and improve her health.
To learn more about Hector's story, visit the following web sites:
- The San Antonio Express-News
- Scott McKiernan Presents the Pictures of the Day
- Ronnie the Rhino and the Grumpy Old Elephant