A Derry man who saved his life by shedding 13 stone has made a desperate appeal to the Health Minister for help to remove “shocking” bags of loose skin.

At 24 stone, Damien McLaughlin (right) embarked on an inspirational regime of weight loss after doctors told him he would die from heart failure. His heart was a ticking time bomb, he suffered from asthma, fluid retention and was prescribed 13 tablets a day before his children gave him a gift of gym membership for Father’s Day in 2010.

He had initially been offered gastric band surgery on the NHS (which automatically qualified him for body lift surgery) but declined, vowing to beat the bulge all by himself. Spurred on by family and friends, the 41 year old married father of two transformed his lifestyle and lost an incredible 13.5 stone in just 13 months. Such was the amount of body fat he cast off, he dropped three shoe sizes and shrunk by more than two inches.

Now weighing just 10.5 stone and with his serious health fears behind him, Damien is fuming at the health service’s refusal to remove his sagging bags of loose skin. He’s already saved NHS money by refusing gastric band surgery but can’t foot the £20,000 body lift surgery bill himself. He believes the decision to deny him the surgery sends out the wrong message. “People are not given the incentive to lose the weight themselves. The way I saw it, I put the weight on so it was up to me to take it off. I did it, but now I’m totally unsightly - I have bags of skin hanging off my body. I’ve toned it as much as I can but it’s still shocking for people,” he told the ‘Journal’.