‘Going to the gym saved my life’

Anita Nickson working out at Life Leisure Avondale
Anita Nickson working out at Life Leisure Avondale

Former media make-up artist Anita Nickson believes regular gym sessions helped save her life after she developed a serious auto-immune disease.

Anita, 50, from Stockport, became a weekly visitor to the Avondale gym after being referred to the Life Leisure PARiS scheme by her GP when she was diagnosed with Pyoderma Gangrenosum (PG), which causes deep wounds in the body that are difficult to heal due to corruption of the immune system.

It involved sessions with Life Leisure’s Paul ‘Rocky’ Lindley, an expert physical activity coach for people with chronic health conditions.

“I first met Anita when she attended her initial PARiS consultation at Avondale,” says Paul.

“It was evident from the start she’d been through some extremely challenging health issues but I noticed straight away how determined she was to improve her health.”

Over the past eight years, Anita has been crippled by osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, and after she developed a deep wound on her ankle, underwent a battery of life-saving treatments.

She was admitted to hospital 29 times, had 22 different drugs, four blood transfusions, 11 cycles of biological chemotherapy, steroid-induced type 2 diabetes, eight blood infections and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The wound took six years to heal, and she was admitted to hospital as an emergency three times, after her femoral artery burst. Combined with the arthritis, it meant that she had to use a wheelchair, frame and crutches to get around.

She is now launching a petition to the government, demanding more research into the little-known condition, which affects 1 in 100,000 people.

“Physical exercise has kept my faith in getting better – going to the gym changed my life,” says Anita. “I have reversed my diabetes, and it helped me get out of my wheelchair.

‘So much of recovery is down to a positive mental attitude and finding the strength to make the changes to your life that will help’

“I was determined not to end up in it full-time. Now my health is stable, and my visits to the hospital have decreased.”

Anita attended the ‘health hub’ and gym at Avondale when her wound was about six months away from healing.

She has been a regular at the gym for two years, exercising for an hour at a time, with rare breaks when her condition has made her too unwell.

Anita adds: “Rocky was the ultimate professional, giving me one-to-one support to work round my condition.

“I did five repetitions on the weights machine in the first session and now I can do up to 200. I have a lot to thank him for. He has been an absolute star.

“Physical exercise has kept my faith in my ability to recover from it, and enabled me to keep mobile. I know a lot of people manage life very well from a wheelchair, but emotionally I couldn’t take it. “

Life Leisure is backing Anita in her bid to petition the government for more research into PG.

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