|ROME (Reuters) - A Mexican man who at 550 kg (1,200 lb) is possibly the heaviest person in the world hopes to travel to Italy for a life-saving operation to shed weight.
Manuel Uribe, bedridden for the past five years, cannot stand on his own and will need a special flight to take him from Monterrey, Mexico to Modena, where a surgical team has offered to perform an intestinal bypass free of charge.
"I can't walk. I'm can't leave my bed," the 40-year-old Uribe, who weighs the same as five baby elephants, said in a recent telephone interview.
"I'm trying to reduce my weight a bit right now so I can be in the right condition for the operation."
Uribe made an impassioned plea for help earlier this year on Mexican television, saying he weighed a more normal 130 kg (290 lb) until aged 22 and did not know what happened to him.
The broadcast drew the attention of doctor Giancarlo De Bernardinis, who visited Mexico with a medical team to examine Uribe in March.
Bernardinis, whose biggest patient to date weighed 350 kg (770 lb), told Reuters he plans a gall bladder, intestinal bypass procedure that will allow Uribe to pass food more quickly without so many calories being absorbed.
Bernardinis planned to perform the surgery in Modena as early as this month, although a Mexican health official doubted Uribe would be ready for a trip to Europe that quickly.
Uribe's case puzzles doctors since his cholesterol and blood-sugar levels are normal, despite his extreme obesity.
"His heart works very well. He has some respiratory difficulty because of his obesity, but in strict terms, he's well," said Marco Anibal Rodriguez Vargas, the director of hospitals in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon.
Rodriguez Vargas said Mexican hospitals still hoped to treat Uribe themselves, but added Uribe would ultimately decide what to do.
Uribe said it was just a matter of time before he went to Italy: "Are we going? Yes. We're going. But the doctors will decide when."
The operation would last four to five hours and would likely require Uribe to spend one month in Italy.
"He will always be heavier than normal but certainly not like he is now ... We would be satisfied even if he weighed 150 kg (330 lb) after two years," Bernardinis said.
No one has managed to find suitable scales for Uribe in years and estimates of his weight are made partly by tape-measure. Guinness World Records 2006 only said it was aware of living people weighing over 508 kg (1,120 lb).
The record for the heaviest man ever is held by Jon Brower Minnoch, who died in Seattle in 1983 after reaching a record 635 kg (1,400 lb). He was in his early 40s.
Uribe hopes to avoid that fate. His wife, horrified by his increasing size, feared the worst and abandoned him more than a decade ago.
"She left me because she must have thought I was dying," Uribe said.
"Thank God, I'm still alive and hopefully will be able to take care of this problem."