CNN Food and Health

Tommy McGruder

Man donates 75 pounds of skin after massive weight loss

December 28, 1995
Web posted at: 9:00 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Greg LaMotte

ORANGE, California (CNN) -- Tommy McGruder is half the man he used to be. He has lost 475 pounds from his 5' 6" body-- 75 of them from a skin removal operation.

on crutches

Seven months ago he weighed 800 pounds. The weight loss "feels strange" to McGruder, 35, whose weight gain began when he was 26. He says went into a state of depression that resulted in his consumption of an extraordinary amount of food each day. (102K AIFF sound or 102K WAV sound)

By this year, McGruder was bedridden and had not walked in three years. He came to the decision to save his life and lose weight. McGruder checked himself into the hospital and in a matter of months he lost 400 pounds. However, because of the massive weight loss he was left with sagging skin over most of his body.

In a 19-hour operation on December 15, 75 pounds of skin, which doctors say is enough to cover a 10-year-old child, were removed from his body. It was donated to scientific research.

close-up marking marking skin
Doctors mark the skin to be removed

"We took out tissue from under his arm that was hanging down about a foot," said plastic surgeon Ron Goldstein. "Then we went to where a normal adult male would have his belt line." (196K AIFF sound or 196K WAV sound)

"Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I think I'm gonna see my stomach and I go 'oh Lord' and it's my imagination and it seems strange 'cause it's not there anymore," McGruder said after being released from the hospital on Wednesday.


McGruder donated the excess skin from his abdomen, underarms and inner thighs to the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine in Exton, Pennsylvania, which conducts biomedical research for chronic cardiovascular diseases.

McGruder, who is now at about 325 pounds, joined Lindora Medical Center's supervised weight control program. He will continue on a 1,500-calorie-a-day regime as he tries to trim down to about 250 pounds, according to Peter Vash, executive medical director of the center in Costa Mesa, California.

"We want this individual to lose weight and regain his health, dignity and become a productive member of society," Vash said. "Tommy's power to be determined to follow his diet and never lose hope is what's most inspiring."

Vash first became acquainted with McGruder last spring at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where the overweight man was admitted to the emergency room with congestive heart failure.

"He had to be put on two hospital gurneys," Vash recalled. "His skin was literally breaking. I went to see him and said, `We will give you the opportunity for help if you'll work with us.' He made a pledge he wanted to do something about it."

AP contributed to this report.


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