Get the latest from TODAY
Rick Delashmit made a deal with his 12-year-old son, who has battled a brain injury for most of his life. His son works on standing, and Delashmit works on getting fit.
His son, Reece, now can stand for up to 90 minutes — and Delashmit has lost nearly 70 pounds.
The two struck the deal last year, but Delashmit posted a picture of the pact in action this week. The photo immediately went viral on Reddit, where it has received more than 2.6 million views.
“He used to be in a coma, I used to be a fat guy,” he wrote in the caption. “My son is recovering from a brain injury. We have a deal now. If he’s standing, I’m running.”
Reece was four when he suffered traumatic brain injury in a car accident. He spent the next four months in the hospital, much of it in a coma and on life support.
“We’ve spent every day since May 31, 2008, focused solely on securing for him the fullest recovery we can, in whatever shape that takes. We’re just on a journey to get there,” Delashmit told TODAY.com.
“Luckily, Reece is a fighter and has such willpower and strength and determination. It allows us to keep pushing him and keep raising the bar higher to where now he’s in that stander for 90 minutes a day,” he said.
That “stander” is part of Reece's therapy equipment stored in the family's home gym, which also has the treadmill and weight equipment that his father uses to keep his end of their bargain.
About two years ago, Delashmit realized he needed to make some changes in his life, especially when he realized his weight had crept up to 215 pounds.
“I’m 5-foot-2, so that didn’t make for a good BMI,” he said.
“Finally, I said, I’ve got to change this. Here I am and I’ve got the most inspirational, toughest kid in the world right under my roof, and I’m now taking that example and doing it myself,” he said. “So we made a pact, where if he’s working, I’m working.”
The deal has inspired Reece to push himself further.
“He gets a big kick out of it, because I act like I’m dying and about to fall off the treadmill and he loves that immensely,” said Delasmit, 43. "So it’s worked for us. I’m down nearly 70 pounds. And he’s more inspired than ever to do the work. It’s transformed both of our lives.”
Although his brain injury left Reece, who started the 7th grade on Monday, unable to speak, he has no problem communicating through his actions and an electronic communication device he uses. He has two younger siblings, a 2-year-old sister, and a 10-year-old brother with whom he shares a tight bond.
“When people ask me about his injury, I tell them, he’s all there. When you look at Reece, or talk with him and go to say hi to him, he’s there. He’ll give you high fives, he’ll give you knuckles. He’ll give you the brightest smile you’ve ever seen, the brightest eyes," Delashmit said. "The brain injury has taken away his ability to tell you, 'Hi, how are you doing,' but he’s all there.”
Reece demonstrated his fighting spirit two months ago after undergoing an 11-hour spinal fusion surgery to straighten his spine, bent by severe scoliosis, a side effect from the impact his brain injury had on his muscle tone. Reece refused to take pain medication after the surgery, his dad said.
“The doctor said he’s never seen such toughness and perseverance. And now, two months after surgery, and he’s already standing up for more than an hour at a time,” he said.
The family's ultimate goal for Reece is for him to walk at school one day with his friends. But the goal he and his dad have is more immediate: To complete a half-marathon this fall.
“We’re inspired by him every day,” Delashmit said.
Follow TODAY.com writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.