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Billi Gordon couldn’t fit into an MRI machine -- until now

Most people who get an MRI scan don't arrive at the imaging center with two lifestyle coaches and a videographer in tow. But for Billi Gordon, simply having the usually routine procedure was a triumph.

Gordon, who was profiled in The Times last fall, had entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in September weighing 701 pounds and lugging around a huge and mysterious mass of skin that had been growing from his upper right thigh.

Too large to fit into an MRI machine for a scan of that mass, he embarked on a serious diet.

Five months of dieting later and 175 pounds lighter, Gordon, 55, finally had an MRI scan Tuesday at UCLA's radiology center in Manhattan Beach. The bore of the machine accommodated the whole of Gordon's 526-pound body.

"The bore fit like a mink," declared Gordon, a onetime comic actor who earned a doctorate to pursue research in neuroscience. Like many others who go through an MRI machine, his biggest problem was a touch of claustrophobia -- that and a bit of a sore lower back. "I was lying there on my back thinking 'I should have stretched more,' " he said, recalling the advice of Jonathan Vakneen, one of the coaches who has been helping Gordon get fitter and healthier.

Although Gordon's weight had dropped to the low 500s by last fall, other issues -- health insurance approval, scheduling and another stay in the hospital over the Christmas holidays for an infection -- prevented the procedure from taking place until Tuesday.

Results of the MRI will help his surgeon, Dr. Tim Neavin, decide whether he should operate. Meanwhile, Gordon has a reality TV series in the works about his life battling his food demons, among other things. "It's going to be the hottest weight-loss show ever," he said with typical brio. "Not 'The Biggest Loser.' The biggest winner."

You can watch an audio slideshow of Billi Gordon here

-- Carla Hall

Photo: Billi Gordon, left, with registered nurse Ade Ojelade in October 2009. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (8)

not out of disrespect. but. This guy should be on every coke machine and vending machine that distributes junk food. Of which we all haves problems with when out of controll.

Why won't he go on Biggest Loser? I don't understand why he needs his own show.

Being in a group of people working on similar problems, with an expert team helping is a pretty hard combo to beat.

I'm glad he lost 175 pounds, but lots of those Biggest Loser contestants lose 50% of their total weight, and they do it under the supervision of a team of experts and supportive friends. Some of them do the show twice, to lose the rest of the fat and achieve their weight & FITNESS goals.

I wonder if Billi's ego is part of his underlying problem. Overindulgence in anything is usually self-medication for some other problem.

Anyway, Good Luck Billi! Peace!

Anthem-Blue Cross raises premiums 39% and I think its outrageous.
Then I see stories like this and wonder why fit individuals who watch what they eat, exercise, and care about their health, pay the same premiums as the morbidly obese.

Simply put, America can't afford health care if the citizens are not responsible for a modicum of personal care.
Go to the malls, the Walmarts, and ask yourself how we're ever going to pay for the avalanche of weight related diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, coming down the road.

Weight matters. Obesity in others is costing me well over $1,000 a year in extra health care premiums.

Nice story and I wish the gentleman well, but I fear this isn't the end of his health care problems due to excess weight.

I wish him luck. He's on the far outlier of what's a much bigger problem in this country. I understand what Joemamabush said before me, but in a lot of other countries they sell cigarettes in packs with huge color pictures of diseased lungs and yet people continue to smoke. Scary reinforces the negative image for people who don't smoke, but once you're already in the beltway, it is too late.

Joemamabush: not out of disrespect. but. Your post should be on every third grade classroom wall to remind kids of the dangers of illiteracy. "Of which we all haves problems with when out of controll." Or when we fail to learn basic elementary school spelling and grammar and yet insist on judging other people's shortcomings. Personally, I'd rather be morbidly obese with a PhD in neuroscience than be skinny and not able to string a coherent thought together.

Maybe he would be a good candidate for Michelle Obama's "Just Move" program!!

I think he has more than a problem than just the upper right thigh. My god, stop eating so much and have a little self respect..

Gee I'm just so happy this grotesquely obese man could get all the tax-payer funded help he needs. In the real world, nature's verdict would surely be 'extinction'.


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