NEWNAN, Ga. - At 598 pounds, Ramon Mitchell is feeling something he hasn't really experienced until now. Hope.
"When he first started walking, I think he really surprised himself," HealthSouth physical therapist's assistant Kelly Adkins says. "It really encouraged him, to say, 'Hey, this is something I can do."
Mitchell, who is 25, hopes to lose at least half his body weight.
But, first, the story of how he got almost 700 pounds.
There aren't a lot of photos between his early years -- and his hard ones.
But Mitchell has long struggled with emotional eating, and his weight.
Then, in his 20's, reeling from the losses of three close family members, almost back to back,
"I just went into shut down mode. It was bad," Mitchell says. "I went from being maybe 300 something, maybe 400 to all the way up to 600, 625. I wound up getting diagnosed with anxiety, congestive heart failure, kidney failure."
Then, in August, Mitchell landed in Piedmont Fayette Hospital with severe respiratory infection.
He recovered. But when it was time to be discharged, and go home, he couldn't stand up.
"And I didn't want to die," Mitchell says. "So I felt like it was up to me to do what I need to do."
Mitchell got an really lucky break here at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Newnan.
After hearing his story, HealthSouth allowed Mitchell to be transferred from the Piedmont Fayette to its inpatient facility.
Here, at no charge to him Adkins and the other team members, began working with him to get him back on his feet.
"We did stretches to help loosen him up a little bit." Adkins explains. "We warmed him up with doing leg exercises daily. Trying to work on his cardiovascular as well, strengthening and his endurance, and also balance training, as well."
In a week and a half of daily in-patient physical and occupational therapy, Mitchell regained his footing, and his pride in himself.
"From losing all mobility in my legs, to being able to get my strength back in my legs, and being able to walk now, I feel like that's an accomplishment in itself," he says.
Now down 63 pounds, Ramon Mitchell hopes this is just the beginning.
His goal is to lose at least 300 pounds in the next 2 years.
"I think it's highly possible, if that's what he really wants, and that's what he's striving for," says Adkins. "There is no limitations on him, besides what he chooses to put on himself. He's highly motivated, so I have the best of hopes for him in the future."