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by Abigail Van Buren

Grieving Mom Warns Others of Obesity's Lethal Danger

DEAR ABBY: I have a message that desperately needs to be publicized, and I am praying that you will spread the word. It concerns obesity, a far more serious problem than people realize. It can cause death. I know, because my 32-year-old son died in his sleep last January from morbid obesity. At the time of his death, he weighed 400 pounds.

Actually, my son had an addiction to food. The last year of his life he had gained over 100 pounds. He never exercised; he just sat and ate constantly. He had a good job, but it was one where he just sat. He was warned by a physician in 1993 that if he didn't lose weight he wouldn't live two more years. His autopsy showed that he had only 50 percent use of his lungs, and his heart was badly damaged. Every organ in his body was enlarged and congested.

Everyone in our family had tried to get him to lose weight. We would have helped him all the way, but he had to help himself first, which he refused to do. I hope you will think this is important enough to print. -- BROKENHEARTED MOTHER

DEAR MOTHER: I offer my heartfelt condolences on the loss of your beloved son. Thank you for telling your sad story in the hope that others may learn from it. How tragic that no one was able to persuade your son to go to an eating disorder clinic.

DEAR ABBY: I am responding to the letters in your column about patients being referred to as "the boy in the wheelchair" or "the liver." Often physicians refer to symptoms and diagnoses so they won't have to disclose patients' names. (A breach of patient confidentiality can have serious legal and moral consequences.) In this way, doctors can discuss symptoms or treatment approaches with colleagues without disclosing confidential information.

I have worked for many years in medical records, and we often refer to patient files by the person's name. Some references that I have heard include: "Has anyone seen Mary Smith?" "Yes, I think I saw her lying on the doctor's desk."

"Who left Bob Jones on the copier?"

"I'm looking for May Fong." "Well, she isn't in my basket. Let me check my drawers."

"Can you bring Mike Williams to me? I have to put him in this envelope."

Of course, we're talking about the patient's file, but if someone were listening, I'm sure it wouldn't sound like that. -- A NURSE IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law lives with me part of the year. We do not get along and can't stand each other. I can't afford to send her to a nursing home, so I'm stuck with her part of the year.

My problem is whenever she comes back to live with me, she'll ask, "Did you miss me?" I am tempted to reply, "Not one bit!" but this would only cause more friction in our already strained relationship.

How can I tactfully answer this question without sounding too impolite? -- SPEECHLESS

DEAR SPEECHLESS: You can avoid the question, "Did you miss me?" by greeting her with, "Hello ... would you believe, I really missed you?" (If her answer is, "No," she'll be right on target.)

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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