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Using Muscle to Beat Up Cerebral Palsy

By Walt Buteau

JOHNSTON, RI (WPRI) — Next time you don’t feel like heading to the gym, think about Eric Birnie and what drives him to sweat through his grueling workouts. You won’t be the first he inspires.

Doctors said he would never walk. Guess who was wrong? 26 years ago, his first breath was expected to be his last, after he went eight minutes as a newborn without breathing. What was left was a very agile brain, but a not so able body, riddled by cerebral palsy.

“They said I would probably never walk,” Birnie told us through a computer that translates his typing into speech.

About seven years ago, he came to Brett Polofsky at Next Level Fitness. Polofsky had never worked with a cerebral palsy patient and was leery about Eric getting hurt. But that changed about six months into the workouts, when he noticed lifting Eric was easier.

“And I attributed that to I’m getting in better shape,” Polofsky said. “But then I realized it was Eric getting stronger and lifting his own body weight.”

Birnie’s doctors realized the weight training was working as well.

“I have definitely proved them wrong,” he said.

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