No Matter What the Limitations Are
Knowing the world wouldn’t adapt to him, a young man with Hand Heart Syndrome instead adapted to the world with the help of Pro Body Fitness.
Nick Santonastasso was born with Hand Heart Syndrome, a rare condition that renders newborns with underdeveloped limbs or weak organs. Doctors told Santonastasso there are only nine cases of Hand Heart Syndrome in the world, with a low survival rate. Only three people in the world have survived the syndrome, including Santonastasso.
His organs are 100 percent healthy, but he is missing legs, an arm, and has one finger. “Obviously, I skip leg day because I don’t have legs. All my friends, we always make jokes about that,” said Santonastasso.
At 19-years-old, the high school graduate is trying to break into fitness modeling. He has over 55,000 followers on Instagram, over 300,000 YouTube subscribers and over 1 million followers on Vine.
His fitness journey started on his high school wrestling mat. “When I was born, my parents promised each other they were going to raise me just like the other kids. So, growing up, it was always, ‘The world is not going to adapt to you, you need to adapt to the world, and know how to be independent.’ So growing up, I never got babied,” explained Santonastasso, the youngest of four kids.
His older brother wrestled in high school, and his friends did too. They encouraged him to try out for the team. Because of discomfort, he had to remove more of his left arm to wrestle. And though he held a 2 – 15 record, it sparked the passion for fitness he still holds today.
Wrestling is also how he met Rich Fritz, the owner of Pro Body Fitness in Bayville, New Jersey. Santonastasso started visiting Pro Body multiple times a week to supplement his wrestling training.
“When a person like Nick comes into your life, you’re privileged because that kind of recharges your battery. It shows you what someone can really accomplish,” said Fritz. “The fitness industry is filled with excuses. And if you know Nick, he’s got more excuses than anyone to not come to the gym and not take care of himself as well as he does. When someone I’m training sees Nick, and they have a complaint, it’s definitely put on the back burner and they’re ready to put in some serious work.”
Which is exactly Santonastasso’s passion. He explained after every high school wrestling tournament, he would be met with a standing ovation. “That’s when I really figured out my whole purpose of why I’m here and why I’m like this, to inspire, motivate, not only the youth, but everyone who might not feel comfortable trying something or taking a risk … Basically just motivate people to live a healthy lifestyle, no matter what the limitations are,” he said.
Fritz explained he would do anything for his members. For Santanastasso, Fritz allows him to come in before or after hours to film videos for his social media channels. Through this relationship, they’ve worked together to try workouts that Santanastasso can duplicate on both his right and left arm.
“We need more people like him in the world, spreading positive energy,” said Fritz. “It’s an honor to be his coach when he allows me to do that and help him out. But the best thing is just being his friend and having him in my life.”