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Proving My Doctor Wrong with Each Swim, Bike, and Run
Brad Kelley

Despite my medical limitations, I’m an Ironman. In 2003, in just a matter of days I weakened to the point where I could not walk. After four days in the hospital, I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a rare autoimmune disease.

It took months of rehabilitation before I returned to work as a tractor trailer driver for UPS in Dallas. During rehabilitation I asked my doctor if I could compete in an Ironman one day. He replied, “I don’t think that’s possible with the condition you have. I’ve never heard of a GBS patient doing a long endurance event such as an Ironman.” That was all I needed to hear – I was determined to prove him wrong.

I began training and at first I couldn’t swim 50 meters without getting winded. But I continued on, and with the support of my family and friends, I have completed five full Ironmans and eight 70.3 Ironmans including qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

Crossing the finish line of my first Ironman was overwhelming. Seeing thousands cheering me to the finish line was an incredible feeling. I knew then that I wanted to inspire others to get fit. If I can complete an Ironman with GBS, then anyone can get out and exercise. Start small – every little bit helps.

I keep pushing myself to do more. So this weekend on March 1-2, I will compete in a Double Ironman in Tampa, Florida. (4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, and 52.4 mile run).

I’m competing in honor of my mother and all Special Olympians. My incredible mother passed away last year. As a speech pathologist she worked with special needs kids. She taught me to accept people as they are, and to help those with disabilities. Through this I found the Special Olympics – they are the true champions and inspiring individuals in my life.

Ten years ago I didn’t know if I would ever walk again.  Today, I compete for those who can’t and to inspire those who can.

Category: Inside UPS
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    Comments [21]

  1. Congratulations Ironman and good luck. Your UPS security guards are rooting for you!!!

  2. My friend’s husband was just diagnosed with GBS. He is still in the hospital and starting to get movement back in his limbs. He was paralyzed from the neck down. Yours is a very encouraging story. I will pass it along.

  3. This is hounddog here!I am a retired feeder driver with 35 years and I will be praying for you Ironman!!!Thank you for being an inspiration to us all! Good Luck!

  4. I will not be able to be there in person to cheer you on , but after reading your story , it gives me great hope and I will be cheering you on from home , God Bless you in all you do …Love Caty Atkinson

  5. Brad,
    We wish you much luck this weekend, your story was very touching, we are honored to be routing you on this weekend,with a mind as determined as your, we know you will have much success this weekend, we are so excited that you are even able to perform this, you are a proven miracle. Stay strong,be confident, you can do this Good Luck to you.

  6. Brad I want to say you are great ! I know you can do it While you are running please add my mom and Sue Bonds mom into your ( we are sisters) run . your an Ironman in our book good luck And by the way I live in Florida and the weather is suppose to be cool. lol

  7. You are an inspiration to all of us who are disabled. I will look for updates and follow you as you compete. Good luck and keep up your fight against that awful disease!! My thoughts and prayers will be with you!! God Bless you!!

  8. Good Luck to you Ironman in all your endeavors…God is watching and helping
    you on your way…be strong…show those doctors!!!! Love ya

  9. Brad, you are a true inspiration to so many. As I read the comments above, you inspire those you know and those you don’t even know. Keep it up! You know, we all expect a summary of the day and how you felt both physically and mentally during the day(s). I want every detail! Your mom is proud of you! She’s right there pushing you, encouraging you and maybe giving you a little “legal” drafting out on the bike course! From wheelchair to 281.2. You would suspect you are probably the only one in the world with that badge of honor. God Bless you, my friend!

  10. God bless you this weekend. Hope you have super strength from God. Oh yeah, I love UPS!

  11. Good-luck,your story is truly an inspiration to many. My Granddaughter & my nieghbor’s grandson both participate in the special Olympics & my soon to be 19 yr. old niece is going got college to become a speech pathologist, so you see, sir, your story really caught my eye. So, again,I wish you the best!!

  12. Good luck, and god bless!!

  13. you are an inspiration to many ! good luck !!

  14. I had GBS when I was 5. They told me I wouldn’t walk, let alone run, again. I tend to be kind of stubborn. I proved them wrong! I am a mother of 2 wonderful children. I enjoy 4 wheeling and skiing! My heart goes out to Brad and wish him all the lucky in his next journey. We are only given what we can handle. Handle it the best way you know how🙂

  15. So proud of Brad “IRONMAN” Kelly.
    Proud to know him and proud of what he stands for. Keep it up!

  16. Nothing is impossible when you set your mind to it. You are a inspiration. Good luck.

  17. So incredibly proud of you!!! You are amazing and my inspiration!

  18. You are an amazing inspiration! I will be cheering you on in spirit on your Ironman journey. Thank you also for supporting the Special Olympics and for helping to bring awareness to people about GBS! We may not all be up to participating in Ironman, but we can certainly be inspired by you on our journeys.

  19. I’m very happy for you and glad that you are doing so well. Your story is truly remarkable and it is great that you can be an inspiration and hope to people who suffer from this disease.

  20. What a beautiful story! You are a role model.
    I know how hard it was for you, my sister was diagnose with GBS about 2 years. It was terrible, my sister couldn’t walk either, she couldn’t breath without support. I am thankful to God for healing my sister and other that suffered from GBS. It takes a lot of work to generate positive thoughts when everybody thinks that you have no chances of getting better, but you proved them wrong and my sister did too. Keep doing your thing. God Bless You!

  21. Hi Brad! I read about your story on Guillain-BarreSupport.org‘s Facebook fanpage. It was truly inspiring! It helps to connect with others. People here who suffer from or survived GBS may think about joining the online support group built for them and their family. Signing up is a breeze and the people are just so warm and friendly!

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