I love a lot of Discovery Health shows, and yesterday I was watching Half Ton Teen. I was astounded by what I saw. I'm not sure if I have any original thoughts here, but it weighs heavily on my heart, so here we go:
In case you're not familiar, Half Ton Teen is about a young man who is 19 years old and weighs 800 pounds. Eight hundred pounds! Even the show is caught up in the exaggeration, since one ton is technically 2,000 pounds and this young man 200 pounds short of the mark. But he would get there in short order if left to the "tender loving care" of his mother.
To me, the blame all belongs on this poor kid's mother. She is incomprehensible. The cameras followed her through the store when she went grocery shopping, and I couldn't believe my ears as she pushed that cart up and down the aisles.
"This is his favorite."
"He likes these."
"I'm getting this because it's his favorite."
Cookies, candy, chips, meat, MEAT . . . staggering, impossible quantities of food piled to overflowing in her cart.
How is this acceptable? How is this not seen as abuse? How is it okay for her to "shower her son with love" to the extent that he can no longer wash himself?!
That was part of the show too. The mom gives her son sponge baths; the cameras showed him holding his breast up out of the way while she washed the skin underneath. It was incredibly sad, and I wanted to scream at the TV: "You're killing him!"
This poor kid dropped out of school because he didn't fit in the desks, and still his mom kept feeding him. At some point he got so large he wouldn't fit in the shower, but still his mom kept feeding him. His mom, his father . . . both are home and watching and tacitly condoning this slow torture and steady progression toward death.
How many other signs were there along the way? When did he stop leaving the house? Wasn't that a sign?
I think it's a crime. I think both of his parents should be punished. If this were an animal cruelty case, there wouldn't be a case. Granted, usually you see it go the other way with animals: withholding food, malnutrition, starvation. But not always. I watched an Animal Cops or Animal Precinct (I forget which show) and saw them pull a pig out of a stable that was so morbidly obese it could no longer move. The owners were accused and brought to trial for animal abuse and cruelty.
Everyone was shocked at the horror of the crime, and yet . . .
Is that not what this mother is doing to her son? How is it different? How is this situation less of a crime?
I'm not judging his weight. I don't like to pass judgement on anyone's personal appearance, and the whole point of the show was about his weight reduction surgery (not sure the outcome; I haven't watched the whole show yet). That's great; I'm glad they're finally doing something.
But if this was a hospital and a kid came in with bruises, the doctors are obligated to call Child Services. Heck, if the kid acted the way this guy acts, they would have called Child Services. He's withdrawn, quiet, monosyllabic . . . the list goes on and on and on.
He goes from bedroom to bathroom and back to bedroom. That jaunt leaves him winded and gasping, mouth wide as a landed fish.
The kid is super polite. He calls his folks "ma'am" and "sir." But his folks apparently believe that it's okay for him to stay in his bedroom watching TV and playing video games 24 hours a day.
I think the doctors should be held liable for not turning in these horrible parents. If they had withheld food and the kid was starving, it would have been cut and dry. But now he's there in the hospital, surgery delayed due to the decay of his heart, and no one says one word to the mom and dad.
Well, wait. To be fair, someone may have said ONE word: I haven't seen the entire show yet. But they patently haven't been arrested, and no one thinks there is a crime going on here.
Whose job is it to speak up?
The neighbors? In animal abuse, the neighbors can be just as negligent as the owners. They see the animal outside, they know what is going on, and yet they let it get to the condition it's in before they call the ASPCA.
An ambulance had to come to take him to the hospital, and there were fire trucks and fireman and EMTs and who knows who else all on hand to get this kid into the ambulance. Probably 20 people standing in the front yard, and the neighbors peering out of their windows.
"He hates this kind of spectacle," the mom said.
I have no sympathy for the supposed spectacle. I feel bad that this poor kid's condition has achieved the level of severity that it has. I don't think he's belongs in a zoo or a freak show or whatever it is that his neighbors are thinking. I think it's great that he's getting the help he needs, do what you've got to do.
But really, she is expecting sympathy for the leering, jeering neighbors? Where were the neighbors before? Why don't they have any policeman on hand asking questions: "When was the last time you saw him?" Which means that he's been "locked up" (by his weight, if not by padlocks) for X number of years. Years, it's been, since he's been able to leave the house.
Wasn't it long since past the time that someone should have spoken up?