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

February 9, 2010 |  5:43 pm

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