With 267 Competitors in Ireland, Whelan is Victorious
By Terry Miller
17 years ago in Oct. 2000, a physician told Foothill Gym Owner Brian Whelan “We can save your left leg but we may have to amputate your right leg.”
Anyone who knows Brian can attest that this was not going to be. With impassioned determination and acute, intensive therapy combined with personal goal setting after a terrible accident that left him in a wheelchair, Whelan would not accept what doctors said.
Oct. 4, 2000 Brian Whelan had both legs crushed while exercising in his gym. There were 21 breaks in his legs of every type imaginable.
“The X-rays looked like two candy bars that had been frozen and dropped, shattered into pieces. My right foot was facing me by my knee, completely twisted upside down. The breaking of my bones sounded like popcorn popping in the microwave. The nerves in both legs by my ankles were completely severed. I lost 25% of my lung capacity as fluid entered the arteries.
“As I tried to get myself out and push the weight off I tore both of my triceps. At the hospital the doctors said they could save my left leg but had to amputate my right leg. At that moment all I cared about was knowing nothing would change in my ability to live and care for my son. For some reason I wasn’t fazed. It’s just a limb. I’ll be ok.
On the operating table the Doctor decided not to amputate. Knowing I owned a gym and trained hard and knew about nutrition, he thought he would try and save the right leg, give me a chance at least,” Whelan told Monrovia Weekly.
He spent the next 13 months in a wheelchair. He competed and won the Heavyweight (non-handicap) class at muscle beach in Venice CA while in the wheelchair.
Another 2 years of crutches and then a walker and dragging his right foot he learned how to use his legs again, while training every day.
“Surrounded at Foothill Gym by hundreds of wonderful people who were so supportive, I never felt defeated. When I was first released from the hospital I got hit hard with sadness, it was all of two minutes, then I made the choice to succeed and never give up. You can’t fail if you never give up. Giving up is the only failure. And you can choose to sit in the corner and wallow in self-pity or you can choose to stand tall and proud, even when sitting in a wheelchair. I made my choice.
I am a father, I can’t always control what happens but I can control how I react and that to me are the lessons I can share and teach. When you are a parent failure / giving up is literally not an option.”
Since he started working out and competing at Foothill Gym since 1991, Whelan always wanted to compete in Ireland. Dreaming one day maybe be the National Champion.
Last year after 25 years of dreaming about it he went back and was runner up. “Amazing experience and my son Kevin came to Ireland to support me. I was very happy but I am competitive and this year I returned. I had to finish what I started out to do.
Kevin travelled all the way to Ireland again to watch and support.
When I won the Heavyweight class at Venice beach in 2001, I was looking right at my son from my wheelchair when they called me the winner. I wanted him to see nothing can stop you if you never give up. Hoping maybe one day he would understand.
He was 5 years old,” Whelan said “This year as they called me Irish National Champion I was looking right at him once again, he’s 21. Simply amazing moment for me.
If I could pass one thing on it would be never give up. Blind-faith in the future. No matter how dark or overwhelming things may seem just keep moving forward. Giving up or trying are both choices. Make the right one for you and your family. You will get there 100%.”
Brian Whelan owns and operates the popular Foothill Gym and The Bikini Bootcamp Company at 202 S. Myrtle in Monrovia.