Fighting the odds: Warren native Ron Kempo’s comeback story

After overcoming a complex brain surgery that had a 10 percent success rate, Kempo has a renewed sense of purpose

WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – Warren native Ron Kempo is a true comeback story.

Kempo was born with one of the worst cases of Tourettes Syndrome that doctors had ever seen. The ticks became so bad, they controlled all aspects of his life.

“I know what it’s like to go through hell,” Kempo said. “But I’m a warrior. And warriors never give up. Never give up.”

Two year ago, Kempo decided to undergo an experimental surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. They call it deep brain stimulation — a complex operation that allows batteries to send electric pulses to your brain.

Doctors gave Kempo a 10 percent success rate. But against all odds, he came out a changed man, nearly 95 percent better.

“I was in shock. I was so happy,” said Gloria Merilillo-Conine, Kempo’s mother. “I’m going, ‘Hello. What is happening? Is this my child? What did you do to my kid?'”

“They gave me the key to turn the lock on my prison cell,” Kempo said. “And I’m out.”

Kempo is determined to make the most of his second chance.

He has decades of martial arts experience. He grew up a fighter and later became a 10th degree black belt and Shaolin Master.

“This isn’t about tough guy,” Kempo said. “This isn’t about ‘I kick your butt.’ This is about ‘I’m a better person today than I was yesterday.'”

Kempo has taken that mentality to the next level. He works out five and half hours a day six days a week and recently lost over 70 pounds.

“I still have my mind,” he said. “And I have a lot of education up here. And I just want to share that with other people. I need to give back what was given to me.”

Nowadays, Kempo lives by himself at his home in Warren. His big goal is to open his own martial arts school in his backyard.

“There’s no one around here that does what I do,” Kempo said. “There’s guys that teach martial arts, but there’s no one that does what I do. I want to help these people. There’s too many kids in Warren that don’t have anything to do. I don’t allow nothing to get me down. I have too much to do. I have too many people to help and too many places to be.”

Kempo is asking for donations to help get his martial arts school up and running. If you would like to help, please contact Gloria Merilillo-Conine at (330) 898-0880 or gloraconine@yahoo.com.