A man who lost a massive 17 stone in a single year has now crowd-funded £15,000 to pay for the operation to remove his excess skin.
Bubbly Gary Bird, 28, had an NHS gastric bypass when he peaked at a hefty 32 stone and doctors warned he could die.
He managed to shed more than half his body weight in 12 months – but while he looks slim his baggy clothes hide huge unsightly folds of excess skin.
Doctors told him he didn’t qualify for the £15,000 skin removal surgery on the NHS because it wasn’t medically necessary – so Gary set up an online funding page.
He managed to raise the cash in less than five weeks with the help of £5,000 donations, his savings and a loan, and is booked in for the first of two ops next month.
Delighted Gary, from Okehampton, Devon, said: “I feel on top of the world at the moment. I can’t thank people enough for all of their generosity and support.
“At first I got a few donations, but after my story spread a lot of people contacted me to help.
“I’ve had over £5,000 in donations, which is amazing I can’t believe how many people that have been supporting me. I just can’t thank them enough.
“The operation will change my life and I will have more confidence as the excess skin is just dragging me down.
“At the moment having all of this excess skin, I feel disgusting. I was so big before that I didn’t think about the consequences of losing all my weight.
“When I told the hospital that some of the money for the operation were from donations they were surprised.”
Care worker Gary had been overweight since he was a child and became an “easy target” for bullies at school who would spit on him during PE lessons.
He tried to lose weight as a teenager but when other youngsters noticed they would make cruel remarks, prompting him to pile the pounds back on.
He finally had an £11,500 gastric bypass in September 2014 – after losing five per cent of his body fat to qualify – and the weight fell away.
However he was left with huge folds of excess skin, leaving him feeling depressed.
He said: “I was so big before that I didn’t think anything could be worse, but I feel disgusting.
“The skin is just there and sometimes I think it would have been easier to have stayed as I was.
“The NHS paid for me to have the gastric by-pass which cost £11,500 and I understand why they won’t pay for me to have surgery again as it costs £15,000 to have the excess skin sorted.
“They said that they would only do it if it was for a medical reason, but I am fit and healthy so that is why they won’t.”
Talented Gary, who dreams of being a singer and auditioned for X Factor in 2010, The Voice in 2012 and Britain’s Got Talent in 2014, set up a fundraising page in late November.
By the end of the year he had raised the £15,000 – through donations, a loan and savings.
He will have to undergo two operations in Exeter to remove the excess skin – the first on February 24 to remove the skin from his chest and stomach, and another in June.
He added: “It wasn’t my idea to set up a donation page, my friends suggested it and I didn’t expect anything to come from it.
“I am really excited about the operation, it will change my life so I can deal with the pain afterwards.
“I am really looking forward to the New Year, my life couldn’t get any better. My confidence has grown, my body is stronger and I couldn’t be happier right now.
“I have dreams that can now be fulfilled and by June 2016 I can start a new chapter in my life.”