Wade McCrae Washington wasn’t supposed to live past the age of 10, according to the initial prognosis of doctors. At just 11 months old, the Houston native was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a condition that impairs muscle coordination and motor skills, among other issues. In its most aggressive form, only 50 percent of people living with cerebral palsy survive to the age of 13, and 25 percent reach 30. On top of that, Washington was also found to have severe scoliosis at the age of 12—leaving any hope for an active lifestyle further out of reach. But instead of giving up, Washington decided to start work past his physical limitations and pick up weightlifting, according to a new profile on the bodybuilder in Great Big Story, a YouTube video series that spotlights unique stories from all around the world.

Now 45 years old, Washington just got his professional bodybuilding card and has been on a roll. “Bodybuilding and doing the exercises at the gym is really keeping me alive,” he said in the video interview. “And if I were to stop working out at the gym, I would probably be dead by now.” Washington is the first Global Bodybuilding Organization Adaptive Pro Bodybuilder with cerebral palsy and scoliosis, according to his Instagram page. 

“One of my goals was to be a professional bodybuilder,” he said. “The other was to be a professional wrestler, but the wrestling was too dangerous.”

Wade continues to train at Houston Gym with his personal trainer Tina Chandler. In the interview, Chandler said that she built apparatuses that would help him secure himself on a bench or other equipment to better work specific muscles. “The basic happiness that comes from feeling strong and feeling abled instead of disabled is a big deal,” said Chandler.

“I enjoy being a pro bodybuilder,” said Washington. “It’s my lifestyle now.”

Follow Wade’s bodybuilding journey at @wadethecpbodybuilder_gbo_pro