BAKERSFIELD - A Bakersfield man is recovering after undergoing what doctors say will be life-changing surgery. Larry West discovered an abdominal growth fourteen years ago. It's since grown to an estimated 200 pounds.
But Tuesday, doctors began removing the extra weight that's been holding him back.
"It just kept growing larger and larger all of the time," said West of the growth.
It begins at his belly button and hangs to his feet.
"I have a hanging 150 to 200 pound sack of potatoes hauling around on me all of the time," said West.
It started growing in 1999 and it rapidly enlarged, making it nearly impossible to walk and leading to painful infections.
"Two o'clock in the morning, he'll start getting the chills, teeth chattering chills, and high fever. And, what are you going to do at two o'clock in the morning?," said West's wife, Charlotte.
Despite the pain and problems, doctors refused surgery, nor would insurance cover the costs. Until this year, under a new plan, West went to Memorial Hospital and met Dr. Vip Dev.
"I noticed that he had this massive amount of tissue in, what appears to be pants, but it was touching the ground and he was sitting," said Dr. Dev.
"When Dr. Dev goes, 'well lets get it scheduled and get it done.' And, I'm going huh," said Charlotte.
"I'm a Christian man and I felt like the Bible tells us that everything is done in God's time. So, my wife said it's God's time now," said West.
Dr. Dev agreed to do the risky surgery. It's risky because the growth, caused by hardened fat and infected hair follicles, has its own blood supply and no one's 100 percent sure what it is made up of.
"These things grow into balls of what we call fibrous scar tissue, and literally, he has multiple of those. And they are so big, you can't even study them because we don't have an M.R.I. or C.T. scan to be able to fit him in," said Dr. Dev.
Tuesday morning, West struggled getting out of his car for hopefully the last time, arriving at Memorial Hospital for the first of three surgeries to remove the growth.
During this surgery, doctors removed about 32 pounds of skin and tissue, but added hope for the 63-year-old to, someday soon, again live a normal life.
"And, it's just gone one step at a, just fallen like dominoes just right, right in a row and everything is just working out great," said Charlotte.
"I'm so looking forward to doing regular things. It's going to change my life tremendously," said West.
West will remain in the hospital for two to three weeks and he'll undergo two more surgeries in that time. He's expected to fully recover in three to four months.