January. A time for reflection, where people think about diets, weight loss, health, fitness, goals, targets, friends and family. But what if some of this is out of your control? What if you find yourself dealing with something that will require more strength than you thought possible?
This is the story of Sue Bennett, member of i-motion Gym Stafford, Sue found herself in this situation and, not only overcame it, but used it to achieve some incredible things.
“In 2008 I had started to become noticeably tired. As a working Mum with three young children, tiredness was to be expected, but some days I felt too weak to even lift the washing basket.
After 12 months of deteriorating health I was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cholangitis, an incurable and progressive autoimmune disease that attacks the bile ducts in the liver. There was medication to slow the progression of the disease which most people tolerated well. Over time I developed a number of other autoimmune diseases and life became very difficult.
It was tough knowing that there was a very real likelihood I wouldn’t be around to watch my children grow and I felt fearful that I wouldn’t be there to protect them.
Two years later it was clear I had not responded to the treatment: my liver was irreversibly damaged and I was diagnosed with cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). I was told that without a liver transplant I would die.
In December 2014 my name was added to the transplant waiting list. Over the next six months my health continued to deteriorate, I developed jaundice and lost about 2 stone, leaving me painfully thin with very low muscle mass.
I wrote goodbye letters to my children and bought my little girl a wedding present as I didn’t believe I would be there in the future for her big day. Time was running out!
On Friday 12th June 2015 I received my transplant and within a few days I started to feel better than I could ever remember.
I wanted to honour my gift and had heard about the British Transplant Games which were due to be held in Liverpool in 2016. I decided that I not only wanted to compete in the games but I wanted to bring a medal back for my donors’ mom.
Nine days after my liver transplant I was discharged and I managed my first unaided walk of about 800m a few days later. My steps were slow and faltering as I’d lost a tremendous amount of muscle but I was determined to persevere.
To give me the greatest chance of success at the British Transplant Games I joined i-motion Gym in Stafford and hired a Personal Trainer in Ross Panton.
Illness had impacted on my self confidence but my desire to get fit and strong was deeper.
I’d had no gym experience and was worried I’d find the environment intimidating. As soon as I joined I realised that there was a friendly and supportive atmosphere and I felt more confident each day.
Ross helped me devise an exercise plan and with a mixture of classes and gym work, I made good progress. By the end of August I was ready.
With lots of messages of good luck from the gym I headed to Liverpool to attend the British Transplant Games with Ross cheering me on.
I came away with two gold medals (in the 1,500m and 4 x 100m relay), a silver in the 3K road race and a bronze in the 50m freestyle swim.
When I got back home I wrote to my donor’s mom. We exchanged a few letters and I asked if we could
meet as I had something to give her.
In April this year I gave my gold medal from the 1,500m to Sharron, the mother of my beautiful donor Amy.
A few months later I Iearned that I’d been selected to represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the 21st World Transplant Games in Malaga.
It was a huge honour to be part of such a prestigious team of athletes and I continued to train up to three times a day at i-motion with regular PT sessions to keep me focused, doing a mixture of cardio, strength and resistance work and PiYo alongside my swimming.
In June I flew to Malaga where I took my place alongside Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes and among 1,350 competitors from almost 60 countries.
On 1 July 2017, my 17th wedding anniversary, and the day my youngest child Jack received his donor card in the post, I won the 800m track event for my category.
It was incredible to think that just two years earlier I could barely walk that distance. I also won bronze in the 5K road race and the 1,500m track event, and came fourth in the 50m and 100m swim.
There was no time to rest as on 27 July I headed to Lanarkshire with my family and Ross for my second British Transplant Games. I proudly came away with silver in the 3K road race and the 50m swim, and gold in the 1,500m and the 800m track, smashing PBs in both events.
None of this could ever have been made possible if it wasn’t for the ongoing support and encouragement I had received from i-motion Gym, Ross and the members, many of whom have become friends.
Training hasn’t stopped here, I hope to compete next summer in the European Games in Italy and British Games in Birmingham, following that, I hope to be selected from these results to compete again for Great Britain in the 2019 World Transplant Games hosted by Great Britain in Gateshead.
I’ve loved watching my body shape change from its weaker fragile state to where it is now. I’ve been very lucky and extremely grateful to the gym for helping me in my recovery and for acting as a sponsor for Malaga.
So affected by the difference exercise has made to my life I have started training as a Personal Trainer and hope to inspire others.
Life is good!”
Sue has been an inspiration to lots of people at i-motion Gym. She continues to strive towards new goals and shows incredible determination in her pursuit for further Team GB glory.
If you would like to join the donor register please visit: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/
If this has inspired you to get started then we are here to help, we offer up to 400 classes a month, an exceptional PT team and state of the art equipment to help you on your personal fitness.Back to Blog