Carol Ann Yager (1960-1994) holds the distinction of having been one of the most severely obese people in history.
Yager is perhaps more notable for having lost the most weight by natural (non-surgical) means, in the shortest documented time (521 lbs. in three months). While others have registered larger total weight loss, some were assisted by bariatric surgery and/or cosmetic procedures to remove excess tissues, and all were over longer periods of time; 19 months (with surgical assistance) in the case of Guinness' record holder, Michael Hebranko, and 16 months for John Brower Minnoch, (said to be the heaviest man ever recorded). Guinness' female record holder, Rosalie Bradford's weight loss took over 1 year (420 lbs. in the first year), and she underwent at least five surgical sessions to remove tissue during that time.
When Yager died in 1994 at the age of 34, she weighed about 1200 lbs (544 kg), and was 5' 7" (170 cm) in height. Bizarre magazine reported that she was estimated to have been more than 5' wide (152 cm), although this measurement has not been verified by Yager's medical team or family members. Shortly before her death, however, she was able to fit through her custom-built 48" (121 cm) wide front door. Published reports quoted her then-boyfriend as stating that he estimated her peak weight at about 1600 pounds (727 kg), but when questioned about this estimate, Yager's doctor declined comment.
Yager stated that she had developed an eating disorder as a child in response to being sexually abused by a "close family member," although in later interviews, she indicated that there were other contributing factors to her severe obesity, or "skeletons in my closet," and "monsters," as she was quoted.
She lived throughout most of her life in Beecher, Michigan, in Mount Morris Township, near Flint, Michigan, and was cared for in her final years by health care professionals, friends, her daughter Heather, and other family members, many of whom visited daily. Eventually, she was moved into a nursing home.
She appeared on The Jerry Springer Show, and was the subject of attention from several dieting gurus.
In January 1993, she was admitted to Hurley Medical Center, weighing-in at 1189 pounds (539 kg). She suffered from cellulitis (her skin was breaking down due to a bacterial infection), and immunodeficiency (weakened immune system). She stayed in the hospital for three months, where she was restricted to a 1200 calorie diet, and while there lost 521 pounds (236 kg), though most of this was believed to have been fluid. (Severely obese people often suffer from edema, and their weight can fluctuate with astonishing speed as fluid is taken up or released.) Yager suffered from many other obesity-related health problems as well, including breathing difficulty, a dangerously high blood sugar level, and stress on her heart and other organs.
As is common in extreme cases of obesity, Yager was not able to stand or walk, because her muscles were not strong enough to support her, due to atrophy. Yager was frequently hospitalized, 13 times in two years, according to Beecher Fire Department chief Bennie Zappa. Each trip required as many as 15 to 20 firefighters from two stations to assist ambulance workers to convey Yager to the ambulance in relay fashion. One team inside the house would pass her through the doorway to another team on the outside, who would pass her to another team inside the ambulance, where she would ride on the floor. Each trip cost the township up to $450.00 per station.
A short time before her death, Yager's latest boyfriend, Larry Maxwell, who was characterized by her family as being "an opportunist who courted media attention for money-making possibilities," married her friend, Felicia White. Maxwell had said that the only donation in Yager's name he ever received was for $20, although numerous talk shows, newspapers, radio stations, and other national and international media are reported to have offered her cash and other gifts in exchange for interviews, pictures, etc. Diet maven Richard Simmons was quoted as saying that he was "angry that Yager's story was actively peddled to tabloid and television media by Maxwell and others."
Yager's death certificate lists kidney failure as the cause of death, with morbid obesity and multiple organ failure as contributing causes.
Yager was buried privately, with about 90 friends and family members attending memorial services.