Soldier who became morbidly obese while suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is refused NHS surgery to remove excessive rolls of skin after losing 17 stone
Franco Gasparotti was medically discharged from the Army following injuries he sustained while on patrol in Northern IrelandFather-of-two suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and weight ballooned to 27 stone through comfort eatingHe finally turned life around and lost 17st but now needs surgery to remove excess skin foldsNHS have refused to pay for treatment which Franco says he 'deserves' for serving his country
16:05 GMT, 26 October 2012
A former soldier whose weight ballooned after he was medically discharged from the Army says he deserves cosmetic surgery on the NHS to remove the excessive rolls of skin he has been left with after losing 17 stone.
Franco Gasparotti served in Her Majesty’s Elite Coldstream Guards Regiment but was medically discharged in 1992 after sustaining serious spinal injuries when his patrol team in Northern Ireland was were set upon by a mob.
Franco's brave actions during the attack helped save the lives of two of his colleagues but he was left wheelchair bound as a result of his injuries.
Weight battle: Former soldier Franco Gasparotti piled on the pounds, right, after he sustained an injury and was discharged on medical grounds. He has since lost 17st, left
He had two years of rehabilitation at RAF Headley Court which enabled him to walk again but he was medically discharged from the Army after he was deemed unfit to resume military duties.
Franco, 47, told the MailOnline that this gave him a 'huge sense of loss' and he began comfort eating.
lost, not just my career and the job I loved, but, also my friends in my unit who had
become my family and the aspirations I'd had of progressing through the ranks
and fulfilling my ambitions as a soldier,' he said.
'It was a massive lifestyle change, I began comfort eating to cope.'
Back in good health: Franco stopped comfort eating and took up moderate exercise and a healthy diet to shed the weight
The father-of-two said he would eat 'anything and everything' consuming 10,000 calories a day (the average man need 2,500 a day). 'All I could think about all day was eating,' he said.
Even though he qualifed to be a personal trainer as a new career, he didn't do any of the exercise he encouraged his clients to do because he thought of himself as 'a cripple'.
'I had just accepted that I was disabled,' he admitted. 'My clients were loyal to me and took on the training advice I gave them even though I couldn't practice what I preached.'
Lifestyle change: The father-of-two thought he couldn't exercise at all following his Army injury but found he could do low intensity work outs like power walking and lifting small weights
His problems were compounded by the breakdown of his marriage and he was later diagnosed as suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by
the incident in Northern Ireland.
His weight had crept up from ten stone to 27st with a 72 inch waist but the reality of his situation didn't hit home until a doctor warned him he had just months to live unless he changed his lifestyle.
'Reality hit then,' he recalls. 'I realised I had to change my ways. I have two children, Matteo, 12, and Carmen, nine, and I needed to be a good father for them.'
Drawback: Franco's weight loss has left him with excessive skin and he said he has been refused an operation to remove it on the NHS
Franco realised he had to apply all the nutrition and fitness lessons he had learnt from his personal trainer course to his own life. He devised himself a training programme and restricted his diet to 1500 calories a day through healthy eating.
While his back condition meant he couldn't do high-intensity exercise or lift heavy weights, he was able to do low intensity exercise like power-walking and swimming and tone up with small weights in the gym.
The weight gradually began to fall off and 18 months later, he was 17 stone lighter.
But while the weight loss improved his health, it has also left him with unsightly folds of skin.
Franco, who is now in a new relationship with a girlfriend who has been supportive of his ordeal, said the excessive skin damages his self-esteem and is a constant reminder of his painful past.
He applied to the NHS and appealed to the Army to pay for him to have skin removed but both refused.
He said: 'The military said it's a matter for the NHS and the NHS told me they won't do it because it's a cosmetic and not health-related procedure.
'I feel let down by them both. I deserve the operation because I served my country and developed these problems as a result.'
The operation, known as a 'body lift', will cost 20,000 to have privately. Franco is now planning to raise the money through a 20 mile sponsored walk which will take place next June.
Any money raised beyond the cost of the operation he will donate to Coldstream Kids, a charity he set up to support children of both serving and former Coldstreamers who may have become victims of misfortune or unforeseen circumstances.