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Special Report:

Losing to Live

November 24, 2003

Morgan, Ga.-- Obesity is a well documented problem in America. But you are about to meet a man who's weight is more than a problem-- it's a death sentence.

It's beautiful fall day in Morgan, Georgia. A day Richard Perrine cannot enjoy, "I haven't been out of my room in a year."

Richard is a prisoner in his own room. His shackles are his massive weight, "I'm hoping no more than 820 to 850 pounds. I know I've lost more than 100 pounds in fluid."

Richard weighed 350 pounds nine years ago when he graduated from Albany Tech with a perfect G.P.A. In a video of Richard taken in August he's at his heaviest--more than 950 pounds, "Morbid obesity is a horrible disease. But it is a disease of choice."

Now he's choosing to get help. Since October first, Richard has been losing weight. How? The evidence is at his bedside. On his nightstand is Dr. Phil McGraw's new bestseller-- The Ultimate Weight Loss Solution-- and The Bible.

And the video tape shot in August, Richard sent it to Dr. Phil-- along with a written plea for help, "I know in my heart I am running out of time. This mass of fat which has held me prisoner so long is about to be my death sentence. I am truly running out of appeals."

"There was one picture, which my mother wasn't big on pictures. I don't remember but one picture of me when I was five or so. It was a little picture so I hope I was little, I really don't know." Richard always remembers being heavy. But, he also remembers when he started to overeat-- that was when his father died-- he was six years old, "I guess to try to get us through it, I mean, I got spoiled on honey buns and hot chocolate. Bologna sandwiches for breakfast. I believe that's where my food problems started, I used the food to bury it."

Richard had a lot of pain to bury-- and he's been digging his own grave, "More gout medicine. And odds and ends, but that is basically the medicine cabinet." A pile of medicines to treat a heart problem, high blood pressure, arthritis, an under active thyroid, joint pain, and gout. He's got an oxygen machine nearby so he can breathe and he uses a catheter.

At the age of 43, he wants to be free of the medicines, he wants to be free of his bed, "I realized I had to get real with myself, I put my mirror there to make sure I get real with myself."

Richard has a"Get Real" mirror. It's positioned directly in front of where he sits on his bed. When asked, "What do you see when you look at yourself?" Richard says, "I see a person that I love for the first time in 43 years. That's an awesome feeling."

"Hi Richard." Here is Richard's Saving Grace. Richard says, "I always bottled up crying, like I said the Lord sent Brother Gary to me and if I have a problem I talk with him and he told me quick that Jesus cried. So I cry a lot now."

Pastor Gary Hadden met Richard two years ago. He's been Richard's confidant and cheerleader--helping Richard write letters and send tapes seeking help. But no one has answered their call. Pastor Hadden says, "He's got a lot of life left to live and I just want to see him get the help he needs right now to continue."

Richard is helping himself right now. And for the first time in two years, today, Richard will stand up and walk further than he ever has. He made it the five steps to the couch, "I'm okay. I've got cramps. It will take me a few minutes to recuperate and breathe again. I feel great to accomplish it. And that's a few steps further then yesterday."

After 20 minutes, he's going back. It took him nearly one minute to walk from the couch to the bed, "Well, we made it without the wrecker."

It's a big moment for Richard--and gets him one step closer to his ultimate goal, "Right now my biggest dream is getting on the porch. Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine or the cold, if it's cold. I just want to get out of the room. And by Thanksgiving, I will be on that porch."

We shot this story with Richard at the end of October. We just received a letter from him--he made it to the porch. He says it wasn't Thanksgiving on the calendar, but it felt like Thanksgiving to him.

Posted at 2:41 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com

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