A sad and shocking story. What do you think?
An obese family of three has cost the Health Service more than £1.2million in slimming treatments and weight-loss surgery. But the family claim dieting was not a 'realistic option'.
Zaneta Jones, 46, and husband David have both had gastric bypasses and their 17 stone son Stanleigh, 15, is due to have his stomach stapled later this year.
At their heaviest, the trio had a combined weight of 76st 10lb.
The £1,235,000 cost of their treatments so far would be enough to fund around 1,000 lumpectomies for suspected breast cancer, or a year's supply of medication for 1,235 Alzheimer's patients.
But the Jones family claim dieting was not a 'realistic option', and believe their obesity is a genetic problem. Their adopted son Liam, 11, is a healthy size.
Jobless Mrs Jones told Closer magazine: 'I understand people's anger because they're paying for us, but obesity is an illness. We're not villains – we need NHS support, just like other people who are ill.'
Mr and Mrs Jones, who live near Truro in Cornwall, admit their diet and lifestyle led to their weight gain. They ate up to 10,000 calories a day in fat-laden fry-ups and super-sized McDonald's meals, and passed their eating habits on to son Stanleigh.
By the age of four he was eating five Weetabix for breakfast and wearing clothes meant for a 12-year-old. By 13 he weighed 19 stone and was diagnosed with borderline diabetes and now takes daily medication.
He suffered from sleep apnoea – a weight-related breathing disorder – since he was four, which required regular treatment costing some £5,000.
At his heaviest, Stanleigh was 20 stone, although he has since lost three through exercise. He requested a £14,000 stomach staple to restrict the amount he can eat, and the operation is scheduled for this summer.
Mrs Jones said Stanleigh's problems started when he was a toddler. 'I hate myself for letting him eat so much but I couldn't bear him crying,' she said. 'Dieting isn't a realistic option. I'm scared about him having the op but if he carries on he'll kill himself.'
Mrs Jones said her own weight problems began as a teenager, and she was a size 22 by the time she was 18. The problems continued after her 1985 wedding to car worker David.
She said: 'For lunch we'd have egg, sausage and bacon and for dinner we'd eat a large roast and baked apples with lots of sugar. By 8pm we'd be eating a fried egg sandwich. We'd snack on super-sized McDonald's meals.'
By the time she gave birth to Stanleigh, Mrs Jones weighed 23 stone and she was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure. She was prescribed up to 29 tablets a day for her weight-related health problems, at a cost of £5,000 a month. She says she took them for 15 years, leaving taxpayers a £900,000 bill.
At her heaviest, the 5ft 3ins woman weighed 36st 10lbs and she struggled to breathe and needed sticks to walk. She said: 'I tried every diet – I even had my jaw wired twice and lost 10stone.
'But I'd start eating again. I feel guilty and embarrassed. I'd love to see every penny spent on me go to treat cancer, but once I got to a certain weight I couldn't help myself.'
Mrs Jones' £18,000 gastric bypass helped her drop to 18 stone. But this has left her with five stone of excess skin, and she is due to have a £22,000 operation to remove it.
She and her husband have both been treated for sleep apnoea, which has cost the NHS another £5,000 each. Mr Jones, 58, also had high blood pressure and cholesterol after his weight rose to 20 stone.
Medication for his weight-related health problems has cost around £290,000. He had a £14,000 gastric bypass last November and is now 14stone.
Mrs Jones added: 'I accept responsibility for putting on weight, but I couldn't lose it alone. After Stanleigh has his op we can live a normal life.
'I can see why people resent the money spent on it, especially if they have an ill relative the NHS is struggling to fund treatment for.'
She added: 'Perhaps we should pay extra for our health care – but then people who drink or take drugs should too. Obesity is a mental illness and an addiction.'
The full interview appears in this week's Closer magazine, out now.
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