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Weis testifies he had surgery to avoid health risks

BOSTON -- Despite the potential risks, Notre Dame coach
Charlie Weis decided to have gastric bypass surgery because he was
afraid he would one day "drop dead" if he didn't lose weight.

Weis, who suffered life-threatening complications and nearly
died after the June 2002 surgery, testified Wednesday in his
medical malpractice case against two surgeons that he has struggled
with his weight all his life.

"I've probably been on every diet known to mankind," he said
in response to questions from his lawyer, Michael Mone.

Weis, whose father died of a heart attack at 56, said he worried
he wouldn't be able to see his two children grow up or reach his
goal of becoming a head coach.

"The foremost concern was that I was going to drop dead," Weis
said when his lawyer asked about his motivation for the surgery.

Weis claims in his suit that Massachusetts General Hospital
physicians Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin acted negligently by
failing to recognize life-threatening internal bleeding and
infection two days after the surgery.

Defense lawyers have said the doctors cared for Weis properly
and that he experienced one of the known complications of the
surgery.

Weis spent more than a month in the hospital after the surgery,
lost feeling in his feet, and has had mobility problems since the
surgery. He still needs a golf cart to get around practice at Notre
Dame, and standing for up to five hours straight during games
causes him severe foot pain.

Weis, the former offensive coordinator of the New England
Patriots, decided to have the surgery shortly after the Patriots'
February 2002 Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams.

"I was watching the DVD of the Super Bowl, and I just looked at
myself on the sideline and I said, 'We got a problem here,'" Weis
testified on the second day of the trial in Suffolk Superior Court.

He thought his weight, about 336 pounds at the time, was
thwarting his career.

"I looked at the DVD and said, 'If I were hiring, I wouldn't
hire him,'" he said.

William J. Dailey Jr., a lawyer for the doctors, suggested under
cross examination of Weis that the surgery was successful because
it helped Weis achieve his stated goals: He lost nearly 90 pounds
and landed his dream job at Notre Dame.

Dailey also asked Weis about his prior history of health
problems, including sleep apnea and hemochromatosis, an iron
overload in the body, and asked if he fully realized all the risks
of bypass surgery. Five to 10 percent of patients suffer major
complications, Dailey said, and about 1 in 200 die.

Weis said he did know about the potential complications. "Yes
sir, (Dr. Ferguson) definitely told me there were other risks," he
said.

Dailey also pointed out the doctors waived the normal counseling
period before the operation -- at Weis' request -- so he could be
healthy in time for the following football season.

Weis said he was so secretive about his decision to have the
surgery that he didn't tell his wife until about two weeks before
the operation. The only member of the Patriots he confided in
besides the team doctor was quarterback Tom Brady.

Maura Weis testified she was upset when she found out her
husband was getting the operation because of the known risks, and
that when she saw him in the hospital afterward she thought he
might die.

Weis said he remembered waking up in the hospital's intensive
care unit after the surgery and seeing Brady and a priest at his
bedside. Brady was not in court Wednesday, but may testify later.

Weis is seeking unspecified damages. The trial continues
Thursday.