Meet Perkasie's paraplegic power lifter, John Hess
For John Hess, pumping iron has become a way of life.
"I love it," he says.
The 16-year-old can bench press 150% of his body weight and he does it without the use of his legs.
"He has no balance, it's pure upper body strength. What he is doing is unbelievable," Steve Pattison, his head coach said.
The Perkasie, Bucks County teen was born with spina bifida and has been a paraplegic all his life, forcing him to the sidelines.
But that all changed last June when John wheeled by Pennridge High School power lifting coach Steve Pattison in the halls.
"One day he flexed and I said, 'John do you want to be on the power lifting team?'" Pattison said.
Little did they know then what John would be able to lift now. In just six months, John raised the bar for his team.
In his first competition, just two weeks ago, John accomplished what his coach never expected: first place in his weight class.
He did so, not by competing against others in wheelchairs but against everyone who entered.
"In the back of my mind, I was thinking finally after six months that I've been doing this, it finally paid off," John told us.
Along with his muscles, mom Cristle said John's confidence has grown too.
"He's gone from 'maybe I think I can to definitely I can do this'," she said.
It's not bad for a boy who's already endured countless surgeries and numerous hospital stays.
"Are you looking forward to this summer being at the beach or pool?" I asked him.
"Yes," he replied.
"That's the real reason for working out," I followed up with.
John just laughed. He and those around him are finding inspiration in both body and mind.
Copyright 2012 WFMZ. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.