“The pilot has turned on the Strap Your Fat Ass To The Seat sign. Thank you for flying Wheezing Sweaty Iowans Airlines”

Jerry Sparks of Pella needs to drop a few, okay?

Jerry Sparks of Pella was driving home in his pickup truck when he broke out in a sweat. He told himself it was the August heat.

And the pain in his arm? Probably caused by lifting something.

Paramedics arrived at his home a short while later to find Sparks barely able to breathe.

He was having a heart attack. A serious one.

He was rushed to Pella Regional Health Center. Emergency crews also dispatched Iowa Methodist Medical Center’s Life Flight helicopter from Des Moines in an attempt to get Sparks, 46, to a heart specialist as quickly as possible.

That’s when Sparks, who weighed 365 pounds, learned what only a handful of people already knew: Helicopters have limits.

A few patients each year find out that helicopter ambulances are unable to help them because they are too large or weigh too much. The situation prompted officials at Iowa Methodist to lease a more advanced aircraft that has been in service for about a month

It gets worse…

While the average patient will fit onto a helicopter, the fact remains that Iowans are statistically a heavy bunch. Obesity rankings by the National Health Foundation put Iowa in a tie for 12th. The Centers for Disease Control says one in five Iowans is obese, a measure of the relationship between height and optimum weight. The number is growing, health officials say. Added to the problem is that overweight people are more at risk for emergency health problems that might need air ambulance service.

At first I was really embarrassed about all of this. I couldn’t fit into a helicopter,” said Sparks, a factory worker at Maytag Corp. in Newton. “But I know at least 50 people at work who are as big or bigger than me.”

I wonder if Maytag is going to reconsider their weekly Wednesday morning Cup O’ Bacon Fat & Handfull of Twinkies Employee Appreciation Day?

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....