Faced with a rare neuromuscular disease at age 16, Kerry Westfall epitomized perseverance. Now 32, he is releasing his own exercise DVD and proving, once again, that even a daunting obstacle can’t stand in his way. 

 

One in every 50,000 people worldwide suffers from Friedreich’s ataxia, a progressive genetic disorder that causes muscle weakness, loss of motor coordination, visual and hearing impairment, slurred speech, curvature of the spine, and cardiac complications, and may also affect life expectancy.

 

For years, Westfall saw himself as worthless and a burden to society. A serendipitous moment in 2005 changed everything. Laid off from his job as a software engineer at Microsoft, where he had spent six years — he wondered what he was doing.

 

“I was allowing life to pass me by,” Westfall says. No matter how difficult it was to “break the glass ceiling,” he realized a wheelchair-bound man could overcome the odds and make a difference.

 

Collaborating with personal trainer Ed Ferrell of Fitness Together in Temecula was a step in the right direction. They began a resistance-training program and later videotaped Westfall’s workout routine for a DVD documentary called Commit to Your Health, featuring detailed interviews with doctors on topics relating to cardiology, neurology, osteopathy, and nutrition.

 

“Kerry has an outstanding outlook and was very motivated to do this because of the results he got,” Ferrell says. He wanted to share that with everybody — not just people in a wheelchair or with a disease.”  

 

Calling his trainer “a huge inspiration” behind the Westfall Foundation, which funds research initiatives aimed at finding a cure for neurodegenerative diseases, Westfall hopes to raise a billion dollars in DVD donations.

 

By following Ferrell’s exercise regimen, as well as recommendations from his personal physician, David Mitzner, DO, and health and nutrition advisor, Edward Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, Westfall believes it has helped keep the symptoms that have claimed others too soon largely at bay. 

 

Statistically, he says he should be in a downward spiral or near-death at his age. Instead, he feels great and hasn’t had a cold in three years.

 

He espouses seeing the film, particularly those with a neuromuscular disease, to reap the exponential benefits. “[Ferrell] has a talent for explaining technical topics, such as physiology and mechanics of muscular functions, in an easily understandable way.”

 

Westfall wants to inspire the world and set an example that anything is possible with hard work, guidance, and support.

 

It’s also his dream to be a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show — as he feels he’s a perfect fit for her Angel Network, a charity that encourages individuals to make a difference in the lives of others.

 

“Most of all, I want to defeat my disease and improve life,” Westfall says. (www.westfallfoundation.org, www.committoyourhealth.org)   JILLIAN RISBERG