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Weighing his options: A resolution that overcame death
Roy Huffman was on the verge of death until he worked with cardiologists and the Turlock Fitness Club to achieve his fitness resolution. Now that Huffman has lost the weight, he keeps himself toned with machines that work on abs, shoulders, biceps, and his back. - photo by Brooke Borba

The start of the New Year is a time to reflect on what matters most and apply a resolution to obtain goals. For Turlock resident Roy Huffman, implementing a fitness resolution meant more than losing weight; it meant saving his life.

Five years ago, Huffman was admitted to the hospital for congestion and double pneumonia. Later, the doctors made a shocking discovery — Huffman’s heart was only working at 20 percent.

After a thorough examination by a special team of cardiologists from Merced, Huffman was released from the hospital. Shortly after, the 59-year-old was told he would live for perhaps two years.

“I was devastated,” Huffman said. “When they said I would never get better, I heard something that I didn’t like. When someone says never, that is not the right word to use. You need possibilities.”

Huffman tried to stick with a routine at the gym shortly after hearing about his failing heart, but could not get into a workout rhythm during the first two months of his program.

Despite looming at Death’s door, Huffman sat on the couch for the first eight months and ate, putting on 80 pounds. At that time, he weighed 238 pounds.

“I was just killing myself. It was horrible. I looked in the mirror and I said, ‘that is not me. I cannot accept that.’ I went to another heart specialist and he told me that I needed to go to the gym and do all that my body would allow.”

Huffman had to find a way to keep his heart rate steady and shed weight simultaneously, which is dangerous. The staff of the Turlock Fitness Club offered their support and helped create a program that would follow the cardiologists’ assessments.

“I worked out for about seven minutes, then I would have to go and sit down. It used to take me three hours to get through a workout. I was so slow. After two months at the gym, you think right away that things are going to happen, but they don’t. You have to be consistent and work hard,” he said.

Huffman also took into consideration his wife. He looked to her for support and love, and found that he didn’t want to be without her, or for her to be without him.

“My wife is my partner. We’ve been married for 35 years. If something happens to her, I want to be the one to take care of her. I want to be there for her,” Huffman said.

As time passed, Huffman’s weight began to whittle away. He began working with more machines and incorporating new fitness goals and routines into his daily regimen.

Eventually, Huffman dropped 30 pounds in 90 days. Forty-five days later, he lost another 15 pounds.

“I turned my life around through physical fitness,” he said. “When I came here, I was on the edge of death. My doctors said that I would never get better, but now I’ve lost up to 80 pounds in five years. Now I weigh 166 pounds.”

Against all odds, Huffman’s heart rate is now stabilized and working at 85 percent.

He changed his entire diet, and now spends his weekends with his devoted wife, canoeing, hunting, and climbing.

“I didn’t have that before,” Huffman said about his new, active lifestyle. “I didn’t have a life. Believe in yourself. If you made a resolution, then believe in it. Take it to heart. You have to put your best foot forward and think about it every day. Once you are there and get into it, you’ll be glad you came.”

— BROOKE BORBA / 209 staff reporter