13 For You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
DESIGNED TO PERSEVERE
Vince Brasco was born and raised in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a small community east of Pittsburgh. As a firefighter and an avid bodybuilder, Vince has a unique and extraordinary story.
Vincent’s challenges began his day he was born.
His diagnosis prior to his birth was Achondroplasia dwarfism, which is a condition where cartilage is not effectively converted into bone, primarily in the limbs and growthplates. This results in an inability of the “long bones” in the arms and legs to grow within normal limits. A host of signs accompany this condition, and were discovered during his mother Lesa’s pregnancy. He was delivered by Caesarian section. As an infant, he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus (a common condition for achondroplastic babies) and had a shunt inserted to relieve fluid on his brain. His ear canals were different. He required several medications for acid reflux and seizures. He spent his days with family members and full-time nursing care at home.
He required a brace for his back and a walker to take his first steps. He wasn’t able to walk independently until he was over 2.
Desperation came after Vince often stopped breathing in his sleep and triggered his sleep apnea monitor. Fearing his grandson would die, his paternal grandfather, Bill, contacted the office of Dr. Steven E. Kopits, a physician renowned for his medical treatment of skeletal dysplasia, and begged the receptionist for an appointment. Kopits’ schedule was filled for years in advance, but because of Mr. Brasco’s urgency and Vince’s condition, she scheduled him within 3 months.
Persistence is a family trait.
Kopits was so concerned with Vince’s condition that at 18 months, he consulted with Dr. Benjamin Carson, then the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John’s Hopkins Hospital. After the consultation and some gentle prodding from Kopits, Carson performed a craniotomy, which is a procedure where a piece of the skull is removed to allow constricted airways in the brain to open. Vince could breathe without obstruction, but it wasn’t the end of surgeries.
He has undergone several knee surgeries that were performed by Dr. Peter Gabos of Children’s Hospital in Delaware to repair meniscus tears due to the strength of his legs.
The most dangerous and life-threatening procedure came in 2007 to correct the Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and Kyphosis (a bowing of the spine that creates a hunchback) in his spine. This delicate operation was performed by Dr. William Mackenzie, Chairman of Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children. Conflicting “S” and “C” curvatures made the operation twice as delicate and resulted in severe complications that kept him in the hospital for two full weeks. The 13-hour surgery almost took his life, and for an excruciating minute and a half, Brasco was “dead.” Vince spent two weeks in the intensive care unit, eight of those suffering hallucinations from the pain medication.
While the majority would find any one of these surgeries and recovery difficult to endure, Vince refused to become a victim of these circumstances. His positive mental attitude, relentless effort to chase his dreams, and humbling ability to ask for help are some of the reasons why he has never failed. Giving up is not in Brasco’s vocabulary.
“My goal is to change as many lives as I can. Make that step to a healthier lifestyle and never give up on your dreams. You are your own opponent. Never give up because once you give up, you have defeated yourself.” - Vincent Brasco
The Man Today
Standing at 4 ft. 2 in., Vince eschews the “disability” label. Instead, he battles his limitations and challenges himself to follow his dreams and attain his goals. With the love of his parents and grandparents, Vince has always had a strong support system to encourage and challenge him to dream big. His maternal grandmother, who passed after a valiant battle with liver cancer, persevered through extreme pain and served to be a powerful influence. Her husband, Vince’s maternal grandfather, passed in 2012. Vince still hears his voice telling him, “Vince, there are a lot of flakes in this world; don’t listen to them. Listen to your family and closest friends.”
“I have had many people tell me I cannot do something because I am short. I do not listen to them. I have many people that push me in life telling me to be the best I can be. Always surround yourself with people that will lift you up and not bring you down.” – Vincent Brasco
When Vince dreamed of becoming a firefighter as a little boy, nothing was going to keep him from it. As soon as he turned 15, he became a volunteer firefighter at the Carbon VFD, a station near his home. When the time came to join the fire squad at age 18, the physician contracted through Hempfield Township denied Vincent’s application. “It was a pretty heated argument because he doesn’t know me; he doesn’t know what I can do. I’m just like everyone else. I just do things a little different. It’s just different things I might need help with. I’m not afraid to ask for help.” –www.huffingtonpost.com, December 2011. In “doing things a little different,” Brasco scheduled the physical through another doctor, who confirmed be was able to perform his duties. He was finally a firefighter.
"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you're hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!"- Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa (2006).
Health, wellness, and nutrition are a primary focus every day. Brasco continues to monitor and control his weight, which is critically necessary for adult men and women with this form of dwarfism. Through his dedication to health and fitness, Vince learned that there is a strong correlation between earning a healthy body and maintaining a positive mindset. Like everything else he puts his mind to, he is relentless for results and committed with all of his heart.
This is where the passion for bodybuilding began.
His keen focus on his health lead to a membership at a nearby gym. Adapting to his environment was nothing new, so Brasco stacked the weighted plates on top of each other to reach the correct height for the machines. Local bodybuilders began to take notice, and subsequently took him under their collective wings. With their advice and under supervision of his doctor, “Mini-hulk,” Vince Brasco began to take shape. In 2014, he entered his first bodybuilding show. From there, he competed in the Mr. Pittsburgh Championships, then several additional shows across several states. This exposure has turned heads in the Bodybuilding business, and so far, Vince has been featured in publications like Maxim, Men’s Health, Barstool, The Bleacher Report, and neverfearfailure.com.
In addition to these articles, Brasco has been featured on CNN and the BBC for his dedication to fire-fighting despite his stature. Recently, he was added as the main cast member for an upcoming television show (TBA).
Even with this success, Vincent is aware of the importance of proper surroundings and people to make it happen. He is a man of faith and believes that God put him with the “right people at the right time.”
What would seem impossible to the average person merely requires a small adjustment in Vince’s mind. He has a remarkable attitude and impossible is not a word Vince can comprehend; he merely asks himself how to make something possible and he does it. His desire is to serve others.
Create your space. Work hard. Take time to plan and make your move. Be determined. Your only true competitor is you. Surround yourself with people who are invested in your success, and give yourself back. You’re worth it.
"It is not about how much weight someone can push or how strong they are physically, but what truly does matter is the size of their heart and how determined they are to achieve their goals. Never give up. Believe in yourself" - Vincent Brasco
"Believe in yourself and many will believe in you. Surround yourself with people who will push you and never let you give up. People who will help you achieve your dreams." -Vince Brasco
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