Living with Osteogenesis Imperfecta - Guest Column by Tommy Serna, Wheelchair user & aspiring bodybuilder
Our guest columnist this week is Tommy Serna, a wheelchair user and disabled bodybuilder from California. Tommy has Osteogenesis Imperfecta or Brittle Bone Disease and is on a mission to inspire people with disabilities around the world to become fitter and stronger.
I'm sharing my story because I believe my story is one of the most motivating stories out there. I know there are tons of people with my condition, however, I stand out.
I'm 22 years old, a wheelchair user and an aspiring disabled bodybuilder!
I was born with a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI). I continued to excessively cry after birth, which concerned nurses/doctors so, they decided to examine me. X-rays uncovered that I had fractures and previous healed fractures and a nurse told my parents I may have OI. I was transferred through many hospitals for various examinations and I was in a critical state, needing constant supervision and care. Doctors said they hadn't seen any case like this in years.
Childhood was a rollercoaster ride. I broke a lot of bones, fracturing nearly over 100 along with countless surgeries. The slightest movement or action would cause a fracture. I remember one time that I opened a heavy door and ended up fracturing my arm. I have metal plates and rods throughout my body to help with prevent fractures, straighten reinforce the bones. My spine has rods and pins due to scoliosis. My legs, hips and ankles have rods and plates.
I have to be always cautious of what I'm doing. As a kid, I horsed around a lot and ended up breaking my bones. I was never playing it safe around my brothers or my friends, but they knew to be careful around me. My parents never taught me I was anything different and treated me equal with everyone else. I missed out on a lot of schools due to my injuries which somewhat set me back but that did not discourage me from completing school and going to college.
Adulthood was an interesting process because I had to learn my condition, battle injuries, fight depression, learn to embrace who I am, how I act, etc. So, I began to change my life for good. I wanted to stop fracturing so easily, I wanted to look better, wanted more muscles, and look and act more 'normal.' I began working out, changing the way I think about life, my perspectives about life and to change the way I eat. I ate more healthily, my body physique was changing and I was getting stronger. Since I've begun my fitness journey or bodybuilding journey, I've reduced my fractures dramatically. I used to break a bone easily but now I can withstand pressure, weights, and resistance. I'm able to hold up my own body and do things with ease.
I started sharing my progress with others on social media like YouTube, Facebook, etc. People started to notice me for who I am. Many people with my condition also thanked me, sent me compliments. I was beginning to realise that people with my condition were looking up to me, as an idol. I've received so many messages from people who have OI, even others who don't have my condition.