Once-1,000 Lb. Canarsien Is Now "Getting
Once-1,000 Lb. Canarsien Is Now "Getting
Slimmer Every Day" In Rehabilitation Center
By Charles Rogers
Michael Hebranko is a proud man. He greets life every day with a deep sense of purpose and, most of all, a deeper sense of humor.
At one time, he weighed almost 1,000 pounds, and was brought to a hospital after being fork-lifted out of the bay window in the front of his house on East 93 Street before the gawking eyes of neighbors and the unrelenting probing of a frenzied media.
While being put into an ambulance, he pulled aside the plastic mask that was helping him breathe and said to the photographers and news people gathered at his feet, "Aren’t there any other news stories around the city be-sides me?"
While some neighbors watched the bizarre scene from the sidelines with the curiosity of a tourist, others were kind enough to express their compassion for the man who they knew would come through the fearful, horrifying experience.
He had done it before.
In 1989 when Hebranko sought the services of the flamboyant fitness expert Richard Simmons, he weighed about 1,000 pounds at the time. He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital then and, a short time later, with the help of Simmons, was able to lose 700 of those pounds, earning himself a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records. His waist size was at his top weight of 110 inches and when he lost the weight it was a slim 36 inches. Eventually, he toured the country, made appearances on television talk shows and lectured about his ordeal.
Hebranko suffered illness after illness because of the horrible trauma losing 700 pounds did to his body. By his own admission, though, it wasn’t long before he "fell off the wagon" and started to eat again — something he called "a relapse."
"A former alcoholic can’t take a drink, and a former drug addict can’t go near drugs without getting hooked again," he said in an interview two weeks ago at the Brookhaven Rehabi-litation & Health Care Center in Far Rockaway, where he is once again fighting his illness. "My addiction is food, however, and I need it to subsist; I need it to live. It’s harder for me to keep away from my addiction because I must have it."
Through the years, because his "genes and metabolism" are different than other people, Hebranko has seen his weight fluctuate tremendously, al-though he is now wary that going down to 200 pounds would probably be too much for him. When he entered Brook-haven nearly a year ago, he weighed 769 pounds and couldn’t walk more than three feet at a time without having to sit down in one of the special wheelchairs the facility uses for their obese clients. Because of a diet of no more than 1,500 calories per day, a regimen of physical therapy and psychological therapy promoting extreme self discipline, he is now under 500 pounds.
An accountant by trade, Hebranko is an IRS agent, having been accredited by the agency a few years ago when they actually came to his house to pre-sent him with his license — the first and only time they’ve made such an effort to license someone.
Proudly working out in Brookhaven’s physical therapy room by going up and down stairs and doing other exercises, the now-cheerful Canarsien is an obvious inspiration to other patients with similar problems.
"I’ve been mentioned in articles and in newspapers and on TV," he says. "Now, by going through this program successfully, I hope I can encourage others who have an obesity problem to get help or, at least, help themselves. It can be done."
Michael Hebranko says his fondest aim is to lose enough weight so that he can be "independent."
"It won’t be that long until I’m able to go up and down stairs without a problem; to walk around the block and greet my neighbors."
What he’s really setting his sights on is the impending marriage of his son, Michael, Jr. in November at Our Lady of Miracles Church here in Can-arsie.
"I want more than anything to be there when Michael gets married," he said. "After that, I want to be able to play with my grandchildren!"