HOUSTON—Freddie Smith admits he’s a big man. But he agreed to talk with us because he’s looking for just a little help to save his life.
Three decades ago when Freddie Smith began his career as a big rig truck driver he was almost always the biggest man on the road. He stood 6’5” and in his prime weighed 300 pounds.
But at the age of 50 with middle age already bringing several extra pounds, the avid motorcyclist was involved in a vicious wreck.
“I tore my leg all up. Shattered my hip and pelvis,” he said of the motorcycle crash a year ago that also crushed much of his face. It left his hips and knees so damaged that he could no longer walk. Bedridden now for more than a year, his weight ballooned to an estimated 550 pounds. And a month ago Medicaid ended payments that were providing physical rehabilitation and medications for high-blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.
“I’d like to go outside dude,” he told me from the home he is sharing with a friend in Humble. “As big as I am, my wheelchair won’t fit through a doorway.”
He said the last time he was able to go outside was three months ago.
“Since the accident I’m sitting here I can’t do anything,” he said.
Now morbidly obese, unable to walk or exercise, he lives on a monthly disability payment of $1,028. His friends know that Smith’s problem is a combination of his accident, his own DNA and his own doing. But they called us asking for help.
They can’t find a doctor, a clinic or a weight loss program that will work with his limited income to provide rehabilitation, weight loss surgery, or the medication he needs right now to keep him alive.
“Somebody please save my buddy’s life. Please. He needs the help,” said friend Kenneth Ledbetter. “There’s got to be a doctor out there. There’s got to be a clinic. There’s got to be somebody out there that’s going to stand up and have a look, and say man this guy needs some help and we can do this.”
Smith also made a plea.
“I didn’t do this to myself. I never planned on having the wreck. If it was my choice I’d still be part of the working public,” said Smith. “Getting on disability and everything is probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. I’ve worked all my life. I’ve never been on unemployment, got food stamps or anything.”
“And if you don’t get help,” I asked him.
“I’m gonna die,” he said. “Not that I’ve been any kind of angel or model citizen all my life or anything, but dying is still kind of scary.”
Smith said he hopes to regain enough of his former health so that he can return to work as a big rig trucker and chart a course different than the dead end he’s looking at now.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one third of American adults (35.7%) are considered obese.