Lisa Barnett Ebberson became famous around the world upon being featured in the penultimate episode of TLC’s controversial “My 600-lb Life” season 10, on 2 February 2022. She came in at a staggering 637lbs (290kgs), supposedly ready to make drastic changes to her lifestyle.
At the rate she was eating, Lisa wasn’t going to live much longer. Her episode was by all accounts a life-saving attempt by TLC’s producers and doctor Younan ‘Now’ Nowzaradan, who works closely with each cast member of the series to help them lose weight. His guidance is all-encompassing, and the expert doesn’t allow the patients to fall back on excuses. Now’s stern approach to Lisa’s treatment, however, had the opposite of the desired effect.
A living hell
Lisa was 51 years old upon entering the series, and had been living with her boyfriend of 10 years named Randy Rempel in Fairbury, Nebraska USA. At the age of 62, Randy had significant health issues himself, suffering from increased blood pressure and difficulty breathing, for which he had to wear a nasal cannula.
It was easy to see very early on in the episode that Lisa’s only reason for choosing Randy as her partner was because he’d indulge all of her unhealthy requests. In spite of actually living with the consequences of detrimental habits, Randy succumbed to all of Lisa’s whims and never questioned her food choices.
Ebberson herself wasn’t too fond of being told the matter-of-factly details of the state she was in, preferring to rely on Randy for literally everything from buying her food to cleaning her body and helping her relieve herself. It was necessary for Randy to facilitate even something as mundane as urinating because Lisa was unable to stand on her own legs.
Her personal doctor said that her ankles would crack under the enormous weight of her body, causing the bones to crumble and slit right through her skin. As a result, Lisa had been bed-ridden for three months prior to when the filming of the episode began. This was also a convenient excuse for someone with her mindset, since notionally it wasn’t that she was lazy anymore, it was that she would risk her life by actually trying to stand up.
This victim mindset worked wonders on Randy, who was probably just really lonely and at an advanced age, meaning he must’ve thought Lisa was the best he could ever do. Consequently, Randy pretty much served her every single day, acting as caretaker, parent and boyfriend for very little in return.
As per most people with weight similar to hers, Lisa also suffered from myriad other health issues, including most prominently severe lymphedema all over her legs. Even so, while being aware that she’s actually committing suicide, Lisa continued ignoring doctor Now’s instructions.
Instead, she had Randy buy the customary amount of calorie-overfilled processed junk whenever he’d wrestle with his own difficulties, practically working out just to transport back home to her all of the food Lisa ordered.
The shock factor behind the ungodly amount of physical degeneration that each shopping spree would guarantee made Lisa one of the most notorious “My 600-lb Life” contestants. Furthermore, it didn’t help her public image that she blatantly used Randy’s saintly patience and understanding to the mental and physical detriment of both of them.
The mark of death
It was immediately clear upon first laying eyes on Lisa in the series that she was suffering heavily from lymphedema, even more so than most morbidly obese individuals. Her excess skin bulging with fat lay motionless on the bed where she’d been for months, engulfing her limbs in proportions that seemed otherworldly, with dark blue swelling on the underside. Anyone with a shred of rationality was able to conclude right away that things needed to change in Lisa’s life if she was to avoid premature death.
Lymphedema is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide, many of whom are obese. It’s caused by damage or blockage of the lymphatic system, leading to swelling, pain, and other symptoms. In other words, there is a network of vessels and organs that help the body to fight infections and maintain fluid balance; when this system is damaged or blocked, it can cause lymph fluid to build up in tissue, leading to swelling.
Obesity is a massive and well-documented risk factor for lymphedema. Numerous studies across the world have shown that obese people are more likely to develop lymphedema, because excess body weight can put pressure on the lymphatic system, making it harder for the lymph fluid to flow properly.
The symptoms of this debilitating illness can vary from person to person, but they typically include swelling in the affected area, discomfort, and a feeling of heaviness or tightness in the limb. Over time, lymphedema can lead to skin changes and infections, which can further complicate the condition.
There is no cure for lymphedema, but there are various treatment options available to manage its symptoms and prevent complications. These include compression therapy, which involves wearing compression garments or bandages to help reduce swelling and improve lymph flow, as well as massage, exercise, and skin care.
On top of that, Lisa also seemed to be suffering from acanthosis nigricans, which is characterized by dark, velvety patches of skin that typically appear in areas where there are skin folds, such as the neck, armpits, and groin. It is linked to insulin resistance, and can often be improved with weight loss and a healthy diet, while topical creams may also help to reduce the appearance of the patches.
If left untreated, as was Lisa’s intention from the get-go, lymphedema can lead to various complications, some of which are very alarming. First of all, people with lymphedema are at an increased risk of developing skin infections, such as cellulitis, which can spread quickly and become life-threatening if left untreated.
Lymphangiosarcoma is a rare form of cancer, that can develop in people with long-standing lymphedema. There’s also septicemia, which is a bloodstream infection originating from lymphedema-related complications, and, upon spreading throughout the body, will most often cause death.
Deep vein thrombosis is also a massive risk for Lisa, which occurs when blood clots that develop in the deep veins of the legs or arms break loose and eventually flow to the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism. She could also develop lymphatic fistula, caused by lymphatic fluid leaking into the chest or abdominal cavity, birthing infection, inflammation, and other complications.
Finally, chronic venous insufficiency is another potential threat to her life, as lymphedema can damage the veins in the affected limbs, leading to chronic leg ulcers, varicose veins, and other complications. The threat of all these conditions was apparent from a single glance at Lisa’s almost necrotic-looking underside skin tissue.
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While many were quick to judge Lisa for outright refusing to change, so plunging herself straight into her own demise, others pointed out that none of that would be happening if not for her boyfriend’s irresponsibly indulgent behavior. Randy evidently never opposed Lisa’s food choices, and simply did what he was told, regardless of the extreme consequences that piled up over the 10 long years that he’d been enabling her that way.
Dr. Now was noticeably annoyed with both of them, and the sentiment was mutual. It seemed as though Lisa felt inconvenienced by having to speak to a health expert whose job was to save her life, while Randy never enjoyed speaking to Dr. Now, and openly defied him on more than one occasion.
In spite of professional advice and scientific data pointing to the futility of leading such a life, Lisa proceeded to live in her delusion out of fear of change, relying on Randy to tell her everything will be OK and ‘get me some more chips’. It wasn’t until disaster took place that she would finally come to her senses.
Having dealt with hundreds of people with similar mindsets, Dr. Now still persisted with trying to help, getting Lisa to agree to visits from a nutritionist and physical therapist. Randy had been both those ‘experts’ for her up until that point – his nutritional advice consisted of ‘Okay’ to whatever Ebberson wanted to eat, while he’d try and alleviate some of her physical symptoms by occasionally moving her joints and wiping down her diseased skin.
The professional visits, however, would end up in denial-fueled emotional outbursts at both of the people trying their best to help Lisa. The nutritionist asked Ebberson what she normally ate, to which she vaguely replied by suggesting that she consumes whatever she is given by others, ‘others’ being the boyfriend whose shopping she dictates over the phone.
The nutritionist was obviously having none of that, and began inquiring further into the painfully childish statement. Upon realizing that her claim was completely hollow, Lisa became visibly agitated and began screaming at the nutritionist, eventually telling her to get out of the house, which the expert promptly did.
A visit by the assigned physical therapist followed right after, but Lisa was already in no mood to deal with another reality check. Hence, she told the professional that it’s way too late in the evening for a visit like this to be taking place, and that she should leave immediately.
Dr. Now got Lisa onto a Zoom call right afterwards, and asked her why she was so dismissive with the professionals. She used her by-that-point customary tall tales of a 12-year-old, telling the doctor that the physical therapist said she was too fat to be helped, which supposedly offended her. Nowzaradan knew the therapist well, and was certain that she would never say something like that.
He then asked Randy to get on the call instead, giving him another lesson about why his behavior is pretty much killing his girlfriend. Rempel also became agitated at that point, yelling at Dr. Now and refusing to listen to even the most basic advice. The situation seemingly ended up hopeless, until tragedy struck in earnest.
Losing a loved one
Everything changed for Lisa when she found herself having to dial 911 and request immediate assistance, as Randy was lying beside her bed on the floor, unconscious. The emergency responders quickly arrived and took him to the emergency room, at which point he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
In spite of being held in the intensive care unit, Rempel was unable to sustain the fight for his life, and passed away from omicron-related complications soon afterwards. Lisa herself was diagnosed with the virus as well, and taken to hospital as a precautionary measure, since her pre-existing conditions could’ve easily exacerbated the illness.
She spent a month away from home, eating healthily for the first time in a long while. This positive shift caused her to lose 80lbs (36kgs) while in the hospital, which renewed Dr. Now’s incentive to help her. Lisa herself also became much more receptive to criticism, and was noticeably easier to work with.
Two of her friends began living with her and helping with proper nutrition and physical therapy, leading fans to believe that everything would work out for Ebberson in the end. However, that’s pretty much when Lisa cut all contact with TLC, and everyone who watched it had been dying to know – definite pun – what ultimately happened to her.
Lisa’s life in 2023
Ebberson isn’t big on social media, with her only public profile being on Facebook. Ever since her appearance in TLC’s series, that webpage has been the only source of information pertaining to her goings-on. She is known to have moved to live with her family at some point, as there was no way to handle her condition herself.
While some held out hope for her even long after the show, it doesn’t seem as though Lisa is managing to get her life back in order. Her Facebook profile is full of motivational quotes and five-minute crafts videos, but that appears to be a simple veil for the ugly truth.
According to Lisa’s post from 22 April 2023, her lymphedema continues to spiral out of control, having caused another leg infection, which she described as ‘really bad this time.’ Knowing what kind of damage this condition can cause to the body, combined with Ebberson’s lack of responsibility and general disregard for her well-being, the prognosis probably isn’t favorable.
It’s unknown whether any health professional is consistently working with Lisa at this point, or whether her family can even afford to take proper care of her. With that in mind, her few remaining fans are in for another ordeal with an uncertain and potentially grim outcome. It remains to be seen whether Lisa will emerge from this new struggle. As the very accurate expression goes – ‘you can’t help those who refuse to help themselves!’