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Health & Fitness


Marsha baby

She knew that she couldn’t continue on this way. Things had to change. Each day was a carbon copy of the one before and it was killing her. “I’m going to die, “she thought as her rasping breathing found her collapsing onto the worn chair.

Marsha cried dry tears as she stared out of the grimy, tiny window pane. This basement prison had been her home for nearly seven years. As frightened as she was, the idea of change was equally as scary.

“Mom, I need help. Mom!”

“Dear, you don’t have to scream at me,” Ceecee calmly replied. “Here’s your breakfast and then we’ll get you cleaned up.”

Four gooey eggs sat upon a mountain of pancakes. Syrup pooled around the edges of the plate, masking six sausages. “Eat up, my darling. You’ll need your strength for our big outing today. I’m a bit nervous. Are you nervous? I’m thinking that the fireman will arrive about 11 o’clock. I truly am a nervous Nelly.”

Bathing was the typical time-consuming undertaking. Marsha slowly walked the short distance to the concave mattress that was her bed, her solace and her safe haven. Ceecee gently removed Marsha’s tunic and discarded it on the floor. With Herculean effort, Marsha used her arms to slide into place on the filthy bedding and again felt the tears well up in her eyes. “What if they can’t get me out? What if they laugh, or dear God, what if they drop me?” Marsha’s familiar panic was evident in her voice as again her labored breathing caused her to feel faint.

“We’ll be fine darling. Momma is here and we’ll be just fine,” cooed Ceecee. The large bucket of tepid water also held several wash clothes, a bar of soap, and a back brush. Brush in hand, Ceecee began scrubbing the sweat, urine and infected ooze from Marsha’s backside. “I love you baby and I don’t mean maybe,” Ceecee sang off key as she worked. Fifty-seven minutes later she concluded by brushing Marsha’s wet, short, thinning hair. “You’re beautiful little one. A fresh gown and we’ll be all set.”


Max had never seen anything like this. After years as a First Responder he was surprised that his gag reflex was acting up. “Keep it together man. You’re a professional,” he chided himself. Six strong young men completed the team that would haul her; three to a side. He planned to stay near her head, administering oxygen from the portable canister. “Lord, help us please,” Max silently prayed. “And Lord, keep me from vomiting.”

Marsha’s weight was estimated to be 675 pounds. Her lymph-edema masses weighed in excess of twenty pounds each and three of them hung from her right leg. Her chin was swallowed up by her neck and the smell in the confined room was horrid. Marsha lay flat on her back and her massive belly hung to one side. “One, Two, Three, Lift!” Max instructed. She groaned in fear as they attempted a third time to carry her on the tarp they had maneuvered underneath her. “We’ve got you Marsha,” Max said soothingly. Max was not at all confident that his team could complete the transfer through the opening they had made in the wall next to the doorway. He was not confident that their older, waiting ambulance could hold this weight. Sweat poured from his forehead into his eyes as he spoke again to the sobbing mother, “We are not hurting her. She is frightened, not injured. Let us do our job.”


Dr. Benton was expecting them and scolded his medical personnel as they gawked out of the Emergency Room door. “Come on people,’ he growled. “Knock it off and get back.”

When Marsha’s older brother had called him, Dr. Benton was taken aback. He had heard of his gastroenterologist colleagues treating the morbidly obese with only a 5 percent success rate. The treatment plan had unfolded over several weeks and now included four phases. As a psychiatrist, his treatment was the first phase. Marsha would be placed in a single room and monitored around the clock by staff. He was unsure, as yet, how they would keep the enabling, often delusional mother away from her 32 year old daughter.

Dr. Benton had promised Marsha’s brother that he would do his best to treat Marsha clinically as it was obvious that her life was on the line. Fed a high protein, no fat, no carbohydrate, 1500 calorie daily diet, the gastro docs would consider bypass surgery on her stomach organ when she had lost 100 pounds- Phase 2. Phase 3 would entail removal of the lymph-edema tumors and excess skin when her weight was manageable. The final phase would be ongoing psychological and nutritional professional treatments as Marsha worked daily with a private trainer.


Marsha J. Mackenzie, 1984 – 2017

[A work of fiction]


  • Jillharrington63@aol.com says:

    POWERFUL!!!!! This article covers the roles that Marsha and her caregivers face. So sad that there are people today that live like this.

  • Jennifer Arnau says:

    I have an opposite comment on this article that is outstanding. I have lost 65 pounds in the last year, following a massive heart attack which almost killed me. I have so many people that now see me and ask “are you sick?” and ” how many pounds are you going to lose anyways? and “what on earth do you NOT eat?. I can sympathize with both sides of the coin. I lost weight to ensure my future health.

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Ladies!
    I wrote this piece to show that many ill people are in a struggle with codependency. Of course, a horrible eating disorder is the main scenario…an increasing catastrophe :(

  • Cathy Westervelt says:

    What a wonderful piece. You showed what alot of people go thru on a daily basis. It’s definitely not an easy road.

  • alexmhenning@gmail.com says:

    Powerful story!

  • Amanda McCusker says:

    Fact is stranger than fiction- so many reality TV stories depict this terrible kind of codependency- ironic to think that food abuse can make you powerless and or kill you as surely as illicit drugs. Sad topic, but well done.

  • Susan Colman says:

    I suggest the author of this wonderful piece work on wider distribution of the article. Codependency and overeating are epidemic, and the brighter the spotlight, the better.

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