Zack DeBaltzo is a coach and athlete at CrossFit Apogee in Gibsonton, Florida. The 29-year-old found CrossFit when a nearby barber suggested he give it a shot.
On DeBaltzo’s first day, affiliate owner Don Moss made him feel right at home—even with the oxygen tank DeBaltzo was carting beside him. DeBaltzo has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs and makes breathing difficult.
“I work out with oxygen,” DeBaltzo says, “and coming out here to the field for the first time, Don immediately approached me and was like, ‘Hey, man. What’s going on? Why do you have an oxygen tank? Is everything OK?’ I was completely open to tell him about cystic fibrosis and why I’m out here exercising to begin with. And our relationship just grew from there.”
Suzanne Roberson, a nurse at Tampa General Hospital, remembers the first time she met DeBaltzo.
“When I first met Zack he actually was kind of borderline where we would have referred him to the transplant side,” Roberson recalls. “Unfortunately, his lung function was that bad, and it was a concern that he might need to get new lungs.”
But since starting CrossFit, DeBaltzo has made incredible gains in his wellness. FEV1 is a measure used to determine lung function, and prior to CrossFit, DeBaltzo was at 28 percent; today, he’s at 45 percent.
Video by Michael Dalton.
Additional video: “CrossFitting With Friedreich’s Ataxia” by Kyle Bryant, published Aug. 27, 2012.