By Beverly Perkins
Julio Santiago is best known as “Dainamite” when performing, and better known as “The Puerto Rican Ninja” when competing on American Ninja Warrior. The Hollywood resident has been a contestant on the television series since season 7, three years ago. Although, he never thought that he would be competing in anything, especially in a nationally known hit series, since he was born with an undiagnosed heart problem which caused dizziness, fainting, and intense headaches.
At the age of 24, he suffered a stroke and was finally diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). The condition is what causes irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), fatigue, shortness of breath, blood clots, heart failure, and other heart-related complications including strokes. It has been estimated that 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib. Santiago was prohibited from exercising and instructed to take 800mg of Atenolol every day for the rest of his life.
For ten years, Santiago followed the doctor’s orders, but was enthralled with an episode of American Ninja Warrior. The show motivated him to start training, and that was when a miracle happened; the illness just disappeared. He stopped medication, and was determined to compete and help others.
However, it wasn’t easy. In the beginning, he couldn’t run more than 50 meters without feeling exhausted and out of breath, so he created a routine of exercises in between the 3 miles he was running each day along with a special diet. This gave him the stamina to continue. After a month of continuous dedication, he lost 20 pounds and was dehydrated. Sadly, this put him back in the hospital.
“At the hospital, the doctors couldn’t believe the test base on my 10 years with AFib. They didn’t find any sign of arrhythmia. It disappeared completely,” said Santiago. “Two days after I left the hospital I started training again, and I never had to take another pill or suffer any symptom of dizziness or faint. I’ve been blessed to be fully cured of a sickness I had from birth.”
The Puerto Rican native has now competed in several local competitions and finished as a top competitor. This new way of life has inspired Santiago to help others. In addition to his personal business, Strong Grip LLC, where he teaches boot camp classes, trains others, and even hosts birthday parties, he is launching a new project to help those with addictions.
“Based on how I trained and cured myself, I developed a workout and techniques that will help those with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol,” added Santiago. “It is a personal dedication method that will help replace bad habits with new habits. I’m hoping to get into many rehabilitation programs and help as many people as I can, and use my example to inspire the people to overcome obstacles.”