After shedding 120-plus pounds, local man continues to stay active


Dr. Daniel Beckman’s message to Dennis England was straightforward.

"If we don’t get it done, if you don’t get the weight off, we might as well bury you," he told England.

Eating whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted and in large portions and not getting exercise led to the Seymour man weighing 406 pounds.

Beckman, who specializes in cardiothoracic surgery at Indiana University Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, let England know he needed to have heart surgery.

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England said he had a fatty aorta valve.

"That was cutting my wind off," he said. "He said, ‘If we don’t get in there and fix it, then I might as well dig him a hole and put him in it because he’s going to die.’"

That scared England, and he realized the surgery was necessary.

The surgery took five hours.

"After I got woke up, man, they had everything hooked up to me. I had heart monitors on me. I had tubes running down my throat," he said. "I asked dad, ‘Did the doctor come out and talk to you yet?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘What did he tell you?’ He said, ‘You’re still breathing,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s a good thing, dad.’"

Before he opted to have the surgery, England said his doctor also told him he needed to drop about 100 pounds.

"I went ahead and said, ‘All right, doc. Let’s get with it,’" he said. "I had to do something. It’s either that or die. I ain’t going to do it yet."

Moving from Columbus to the Lancelot group home in Seymour, England said he started eating better and eating right. No more fast food. No more big portions. No more going for seconds.

"Before, I was eating doughnuts — basically whatever I wanted," he said. "It wasn’t too long after that, I moved into the group home, and that helped me get where I’m at now. Instead of sitting down here and eating a big plate full of food, you cut that in half."

By eating better and exercising, England is now at 277 pounds. That’s a 129-pound weight loss.

"Before, I could barely move, couldn’t even hardly walk or nothing," he said. "But now that I’ve dropped down to 277, I’m going and doing whatever I want to do."

That makes him feel a lot better, he said.

"Now, I can’t keep the girls off of me," he said, smiling.

Along with walking, England is active with Special Olympics Indiana Jackson County. The program offers a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities ages 8 and up.

This year, England has been a part of the horseshoes and bowling teams and found a lot of success.

At the Indiana Summer Games in Terre Haute in June, he won bronze in the 20-foot division of the horseshoes competition. With bowling, he won his division during the county tournament in Scottsburg in October and placed second in his division during the Area 2 tournament in Clarksville in November. On Saturday, he will compete in the state tournament in Indianapolis.

Now, he is joining the new powerlifting program.

"It has helped me keep myself pretty well active," England said of Special Olympics. "The reason I say that is because if I’m not up doing something or anything like that, all I’m doing is sitting around thinking, ‘Well, what can I eat now?’ I get myself up and moving around. That way, I’m not thinking about eating."

Another way England stays active is participating in the day program at Jackson Developmental Industries in Seymour. There, he gets to take cooking classes and do other educational and enrichment activities.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he goes up to Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing Inc. in Walesboro and works in the Eurest Dining Services cafe from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. He primarily cleans dishes.

"People don’t realize how hard it is to do dishes," England said. "You’re constantly going. You ain’t going to stop. You ain’t going to slow this stuff down."

During a recent checkup with his family doctor, England received good news.

"When I got there, he says, ‘Your heart thanks you for dropping all that weight,’" England said. "I told the staff before we ever went in that man’s office, ‘I could tell you exactly what he’s going to tell you before we even get in there.’ She said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘He will check me out and say I don’t want to see you for another year.’ Sure enough, when we walked in there, he did exactly what I told her he would do.’"

That clean bill of health made England feel good.

"That way, I don’t have to go through it again," he said of heart surgery.

His doctor, however, suggested England get down to 190 pounds.

"I won’t be able to keep the girls off of me then," he said, smiling. "I’ll have to run and hide somewhere. I’ll have to go to the boys bathroom. More than likely, they’ll come in there after me."

Other goals for England include saving money to purchase a car and moving out of the group home and into supported living.

For all of his accomplishments, England recently was presented the Consumer Achievement Award during Developmental Services Inc.’s annual awards banquet.

It was noted that his healthier lifestyle has reaped dividends in virtually all aspects of his life.

"This required a level of self-sacrifice and determination that most of us can’t even imagine," a DSI staffer said. "Dennis has really taken advantage of the services that DSI offers, and he has remained extremely committed and focused on his goals to better himself."

England said he didn’t know about the award until he arrived at the banquet in Columbus. When they moved him to the front of the room, he saw his name on a reserved table and saw pictures of him on a screen.

"I’m thankful that I got it," he said. "It kind of surprised me, but I’m happy I got it."

A few days later, during The Arc of Jackson County’s annual banquet, he was among the employees present as Eurest Dining Services received the Employer of the Year Award.

England said he hopes he is an inspiration to others to live a healthy lifestyle.

"If they want to lose weight, get it in their head that they are going to do it," he said. "Start eating smaller portions and start exercising. That should help right there. Don’t eat jumbo-size plates. Start eating smaller portions and exercise, like walking. You never know what could happen."

Oh, there’s one more goal England has set.

"What I really want to do is go back to Indianapolis and see Dr. Beckman and show him and say, ‘Doc, you said to drop 100 pounds. I dropped 120. Here it is. You wanted it. You got it, bub,’" England said. "That’s one thing I want to do before he retires. I want to get back up there and see that man."

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