HOUSTON -- A 550-pound Houston man, whose friends made a public plea for doctors to help save his life, has lost his battle with morbid obesity.

Freddie Smith, 52, died at his home in Texas City over the weekend. A year and a half ago his friends, fearing he was near death, asked if Houston-area medical professionals would help him.

As a truck driver Smith admitted at the time that much of his problems were self-inflicted from a sedentary lifestyle. But at 6 feet 5 inches tall and 300 pounds, his problems were compounded by a motorcycle accident that left him unable to exercise or walk. His condition worsened to the point that his friends knew they needed to seek help.

Sugar Land cardiologist Dr. Kota Reddy did offer his services. His medical team took baseline medical tests and started Smith on a diet regimen that he promised would put Smith on the right track. But Dr. Reddy says Smith fired him and stopped using the recommended diet within a month. Since then Smith relied on friends to help with his meal purchases and planning and had lost up to 100 pounds.

But after not hearing from him for several days his friends found Smith dead in his Texas City home. The initial medical examination suggests cardiac arrest brought on by extensive heart disease.

This is what we were fighting against when all this started. Nobody wanted this to take place, said friend Kenny Ledbetter.

I was very hopeful, said friend Rain Kayser who helped take care of Smith, who was still mostly homebound. This was just very unexpected.

According to the Centers for Disease Control more than one-third of Americans are considered obese at an estimated annual medical cost of approximately $147 billion.

Smith s friends, just 36 hours after finding his body, wanted to speak out one more time so that others fighting his same battle might learn from his story.

Don tgive up. Don t give up on yourself. Don t give up on somebody you re helping because it s achievable, said Kayser.

And to know that there are other people out there that are going through the same thing, that have family members who care as much as I care, said Ledbetter, it s heartbreaking to think that somebody else is going to have to feel this.

You have to have the will and the want-to first of all for yourself. And then you have to have a support system. You have to have people that encourage you. Just don t give up, added Kayser.

Plans for a memorial are underway. But Smith made it clear he did not want a funeral. His friends say a celebration party instead will be held in his honor.

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