Tommy McGruder was happy to see the welcoming committee of 12 paramedics, three nurses and a doctor that greeted him Wednesday when he returned from the hospital to his South-Central Los Angeles home.
The paramedics were there to carry the 700-pound man into his house, where the nurses had turned the living room into a comfortable place for him to sleep.
The doctor was there to make certain that the kitchen was a safe place for McGruder to eat.
Dr. Peter Vash removed boxes of snack crackers and corn bread mix, packages of cupcakes and a jar of peanut butter from the cupboard. He pulled frozen pizza, pork chops and sticks of butter from the refrigerator.
In their place, he stocked the kitchen with high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods such as fish, poultry, pasta, fruit and vegetables.
Vash heads the nonprofit Lean for Life Foundation, a Costa Mesa-based group that assists low-income individuals with weight control. He promised to keep the kitchen stocked with healthy foods and send doctors to monitor McGruder for free as long as he works at losing weight.
McGruder--who was near death when he was hospitalized five weeks ago with respiratory problems--said his snacking days were behind him.
"I'm ready to get started," he said. "I have a lot of work to do."
McGruder, 35, has been bedridden since February, when he fell in the bedroom of his East 60th Street home and injured his knees. He was hospitalized after becoming unable to breathe.
Doctors at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center inserted a breathing tube and put him on a strictly controlled diet. He appeared to have lost some weight before he was discharged--although officials had no way of weighing him.
Vash said his goal is to get McGruder's weight down to about 400 pounds and then get him back on his feet. He said an initial low-fat, fast-like diet supplemented with vitamins and minerals could result in the loss of 100 pounds within three months.
Exercise will eventually allow McGruder to shed even more weight, he said.
McGruder's mother, 50-year-old school playground director Effie McGruder, said she will gladly forgo cooking fried chicken and serving cheese and other fat-laden foods to her son. She said that he never seemed to eat that much--and that he only rarely "pigged out on Kentucky Fried Chicken or pizza" meals.
"I can deal with fish. My son knows this is his last chance--he either eats right or dies," she said.
The paramedics lifted McGruder with a heavy-duty canvas blanket after hospital officials dispatched a delivery-style truck to transport him home. A new bed was donated for his use.
"I really thank you all," McGruder told the crowd that filled the living room. "You've saved my life. . . . I'm tired of being sick."