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A feel-good story for all

Scott Brush of Spring Hill, working with trainer Maureen Marchand at the Hernando YMCA, was born with cerebral palsy.

MIKE CAMUNAS | Times

Scott Brush of Spring Hill, working with trainer Maureen Marchand at the Hernando YMCA, was born with cerebral palsy.

SPRING HILL — Barbara Brush constantly worries about her son.

Scott, a 44-year-old Spring Hill resident who has cerebral palsy, struggles to keep seizures in check and has had a shunt in his skull his entire life.

A lifetime of doctor's trips, battling pneumonia on a yearly basis, and going through open heart surgery had taken its toll on Scott's disability.

Barbara knew something had to be done.

"I've asked doctors if there was anything to stop the progression of what he has," Barbara said, tearing up a bit. "And they always asked me, 'Why? It won't help any.' I guess I didn't want to hear that."

Guess they were wrong, too.

So Barbara started bringing Scott to the gym at the Hernando Branch YMCA two years ago. Remarkably, lifting weights and using the stationary bike twice a week has improved his condition.

"If she's happy (that I'm healthy), then I'm happy," Scott said, smiling while looking at his mother, his caregiver. "I needed to get up and do something. I needed to exercise for myself."

Regular with routine

Two years ago, Scott would sit on the couch. He'd watch too much TV, spend too much time surfing the Web.

Scott can't wait to get to the gym. He'll beat his mother, who also works out at the Y, to the automated sliding doors at the entrance. Wearing workout pants and a Tampa Bay Buccaneers T-shirt, he'll greet anyone he knows with a head nod and a smile. He perks up as he heads down the hall to the gym.

Most regulars know this regular.

"It's so heart-rendering to see him walk around the gym and work out and look and feel better," Barbara said, choking on her words. "People we've known for a while will walk up to him and say he looks great and they can tell he's been working out.

"It's helped his self-esteem and given him confidence and just worked wonders for him."

Scott is physically fit now. While doing his circuit in weights, he nearly rushes to the next machine, doing such things as leg presses and lat pull downs. He stays on the heels of his trainer, Maureen Marchand.

He'll do his two sets with ease while some other Y members see that perhaps his body doesn't look right, but his form does.

"We had to figure out what was going to work for him and not," Marchand said. "And he's improved in things that he couldn't do at first. We knew that the shoulders and the chest would be the best for him, but he can pretty much do it all and he's had no problem balancing his body."

Working out is extremely beneficial for Scott, especially in the upper body. Making that area stronger helps out with his lungs since his back makes his body hunch over his lungs. There, as he gains strength and flexibility, he's able to breathe better, allowing him to do more cardio work on the bike.

Barbara thinks that the "pneumonia he'd get like clockwork" has stopped thanks to the workouts. Then of course she notices how much stronger he is, how his muscles — his legs, shoulders and arms — are toned, defined, bigger than they used to be.

She notices that he helps more around the house besides just searching the Web for his mother and father, John.

"He's intelligent, his body just doesn't show it," Barbara said. "He doesn't have the body language for it."

Motivated for Mom

Bob Yarzab, wellness coordinator at the Y, said Barbara addressed her concern if Scott could handle working out. Yarzab asked her to bring in Scott, to evaluate him. Instantly, Yarzab knew that Scott would need a trainer, but that wouldn't be difficult. They set him up with Marchand.

After a few weeks, Barbara recognized the kindness, not pity, shown to Scott. He was accepted and welcomed.

Yarzab isn't surprised by the transformation, but more by Scott's work ethic on the gym floor.

"It's quite a story, in my eyes," Yarzab said. "His dedication is phenomenal. Scott won't get results right away like someone without that disability, which could get someone discouraged.

"That never happened. Unless he's really sick, he's here regularly and the work never got him down."

Marchand takes great pride in her pupil. She feels rewarded as he sets himself up to do a seated bench press.

"He doesn't even really need me anymore," Marchand said. "He could do it all himself. He's appreciative of what we've done for him and that makes it worthwhile."

Even though Scott's never been pushed too hard or rushed, Scott keeps Marchand around as extra encouragement, not wanting to let her down.

As if he could do that. He's always had extra motivation anyway.

Because M is for the many trips to the gym. O is for the overtime he's put in on the weights. And the second M?

That's the real motivation Scott used to keep coming back every day.

"I felt like I had to do something to make my mom happy," Scott said. "I knew I needed to work out to make her happy. I wanted her to know that I was healthy and I could do things myself.

"I work out for both of us."

Community sports editor Mike Camunas can be reached at mcamunas@sptimes.com or (352) 544-1771.

A feel-good story for all 01/05/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 10:34am]
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