Weighty Problem

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It isn't the first time law enforcement and paramedics have been called to a residence near the Pleasants-Ritchie County line.

A man in his early 50's had difficulty getting out of bed. The unusual part is that he weighs more than 650 pounds.

"He has a medical condition that causes his weight to be excessive," said Pleasants County Sheriff Larry Barnhart. "Along with that, the extra weight causes some medical problems that are harder for him to deal with."

This day, rescuers only had to help him get up. Sheriff Barnhart said sometimes, it's been more than that.

"It's more of a problem to get him loaded into an ambulance and to the hospital, than to get him back in bed," Barnhart said.

Sheriff Barnhart said the patient who needed assistance Thursday lives alone, although he does have people who come to his home on a regular basis to check on him.

For purposes of classification, this is considered a routine run, but it's really anything but routine. That's because fire department rescue vehicles don't have the capacity to handle people like this.

Michael Beebe is with Pleasants County's emergency rescue service, but he's also worked as far away as New Mexico. And he's handled patients like these in other places.

"We have used everything from forklifts to actually cutting holes out of the wall," said Beebe, "and we've led people out through the side of their home." "It's required some expertise."

Pleasants County isn't alone. Other local departments have handled similar cases.

"We have some larger boards made up that are used for trench rescues and mass-casualty incidents," says Dan Benson, Assistant Chief of the Marietta Fire Department. "We use those boards to load them into the squad with the cot removed."

All of the area's emergency squads are outfitted with the latest equipment. But larger patients require what paramedic Beebe calls, "a little bit of creativity."