STOW, Ohio -- Mark Learner once weighed more than 800 pounds, but the Stow resident has dropped more than half of that weight, thanks in small part to a daily walk he takes around his adopted hometown.
The 53-year-old says he was active and athletic in his youth, but as a result of work-related injuries and a heart ailment, he began to put on weight at an alarming rate in his 30s.
"And before I knew it, I went from walking, to a walker, to a wheelchair and once I was in that wheelchair, that was it because I was not mobile and it was hard to lose that weight,” said Learner.
During a visit to a heart specialist, the scale revealed that Mark's weight had reached 840 pounds. "He told me, 'you've got six months and you're dead,' and I told him that was totally unacceptable and he said, 'well it might be unacceptable, but you're going to die if you don't do something.'" The warning convinced Mark to start listening to his dietitian, and he shed more than 230 pounds over a period of three years.
The drop-in weight then allowed him to have bariatric surgery and he dropped another 220 pounds.
Once he was able to start moving again with the aid of his wheelchair, he started walking nearly every day near his apartment.
It was the encouragement of Stow residents and passersby, that inspired him to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
As he waved to a passing motorist, Learner told FOX 8, "They'll walk with me and talk with me and tell me that I'm doing good and they're so proud of me and stuff, because they know it's not easy."
After dropping 500 pounds, Learner says the next phase in his recovery is the removal of excess skin from the extreme weight loss, but he cannot afford the expenses associated with a trip to a Pennsylvania hospital for the surgery.
He says if he can get the help he needs, it will set the stage for his return to a normal life. “I’ll be able to work out even more and keep the weight off and be able to do things I haven't done and, you know, I'm tired of sitting on the sidelines being a spectator, instead of being out there and actually enjoying my life,” he said.
If you would like to help pay for his trip to Pennsylvania to undergo surgery, donations can be mailed to:
3000 Graham Road
Stow, OH 44224