5 inspirational survivors
From 96-year-old Gladys who still does tai chi, to Sarah, who looks after her daughter despite having a heart condition herself, these are some of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet. Lauren Hoskin explains.
1. "How I lost more than 8 stone in weight"
Life hasn’t been easy on Marchello, but he’s achieved amazing things. When he was seven, his mother was diagnosed with cancer, a situation that tore his family apart and distorted his relationship with food. Since then, he’s battled with his weight, not helped by the fact that his father ran a fish and chip shop which he later ran himself.
At his peak weight, Marchello was 25st 7lb, putting him at dangerously high risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. After visiting his doctor in 2011, he was referred to the BHF Hearty Lives programme where he got the support he needed. Two years later he had lost 8st 6lb and was determined to reach his target weight of 15st.
2. Gladys, 96: “I would recommend tai chi to anyone”
Gladys is an amazing 96 year old who has faced numerous health problems over the years, but she’s still fighting fit and shows no sign of slowing! She lives by herself, practices tai chi, does all of her own cooking, cleaning and shopping and is an avid walker. When asked if she wanted a stair lift installed in her home, she said “Over my dead body!”
Three years ago, after experiencing a fall, she was diagnosed with a heart rhythm problem and had a pacemaker fitted. But Gladys still helps others more than ever, baking cakes and sewing for friends. Her advice: “If you think you can do it, then do it. Don’t say ‘I can’t do that’.” She’s an inspiration to us all!
3. How Bill has fought his family history of heart disease
After losing both his father and brother to fatal heart attacks when they were aged 57, Bill resolved to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. He never smoked, he ran over 100 half and 13 full marathons, and played football throughout his twenties.
Unfortunately, he also suffered a heart attack at 57, but luckily it seems that his active lifestyle paid off, as he’s still here to tell the story. In 2003 he experienced his first attack whilst exercising at the gym, another in hospital a few days later and a third whilst playing golf. Now he has had an ICD fitted, which will return his heart rhythm to normal if he suffers another cardiac arrest. At 68 he’s still extremely active and is looking forward to his 70th birthday. “It’s almost here and I can’t wait to celebrate.”
4. "There's just me and my daughter - I couldn't allow heart disease to beat me"
Sarah is the main carer for her daughter, Ellie, who has Asperger syndrome, epilepsy and other health issues. So when Sarah found out she had coronary heart disease, her biggest fears were not for herself, but for who would look after Ellie.
Yet instead of letting this get her down, she resolved to turn her life around. Now she gets the treatment and care she needs, eats more healthily and goes on daily three-mile walks. She has joined a running club and hopes one day to run in aid of the BHF. Sarah even volunteers to help others at the cardiac rehab sessions that helped her before. All of this has helped her to deal with her fears. “You have to not be afraid. I was afraid, but I am not afraid any more.”
5. How Ken found the power of speech again
Ken became a local legend when he scored the fastest-ever try in a rugby league cup final at Wembley in 1960. But in 1999, he suffered from a stroke that changed his world forever. The stroke left Ken unable to speak, read or write- a condition known as aphasia. For months he had no idea what anyone was saying. He didn’t even know his wife’s name. Luckily language therapy was there to help, and he has now regained around 70 per cent of his former speech.
Ken’s amazing achievement came when he gave a speech at the national Stroke Association conference in Harrogate in front of 300 people. “That was my real Wembley moment.”
Now he gives back to those that helped him. Ken works with Speakability, a charity that supports people with aphasia as well as SpeakwithIT, who use specially designed computer programmes to help people regain their communication skills.