The purpose of our case histories is to show you that absolutely everyone and anyone can benefit from being a member of a gym. You may feel intimidated about walking through the door for the first time - but please don't be. You will meet some amazing down to earth, local and very real people with wonderful stories to tell. Here is the first one!
Chrissie Pardoe joined the Fifth Dimension gym in 2004, after trying out several others, and has been a member for nearly 12 years. She has been married very happily to her husband Ron for 45 years, had a long career in optical manufacturing and in 2012 was a very fit lady. Having decided to retire at the end of 2012 to spend more time with Ron, after only 9 more relaxing months, tragedy struck.
Out of the blue, Chrissie developed Neisseria Meningitis, a very rare strain of the disease, followed by septicaemia. It started deceptively as a general unwell feeling followed by a very sore throat 4 days later, then gradually worsened and three days later on Friday 20th September she was rushed into Intensive Care in Gloucester. Paramedics saved her life on the way but she went into a coma, hovering for several days between life and death. Ron was called into the hospital at 1 am the next day and was warned that she might not make it. This is part of a card written by Ron during the darkest days.
At last, on the 12th day, Chrissie finally turned the corner and started to show signs of recovery, but she had no recollection of the previous few days. The doctors warned Ron that Chrissie could be suffering quite major brain damage, she was hallucinating as a result of the drugs and not recognising him, she was unable to walk as her right side was badly affected, was completely deaf and her eyesight was also badly affected. Things did not look bright.
Chrissie returned home in a wheelchair in October to begin the long process of rehabilitation. Her doctors had told her that it had been her fitness that had saved her life and she was determined to be as active as possible to speed her own recovery. In November, Fifth Dimension organised a firework display in aid of Meningitis research - Chrissie was taken in her wheelchair - it was the first time she had been out. She had to learn to walk again which took several weeks of physiotherapy initially in the hospital, walking between two parallel bars, using a zimmer frame on wheels, climbing a few stairs - hanging on tight all the time. A support person came every day for eight weeks and she gradually progressed onto crutches, then just holding onto an arm. Slowly her sight began to settle down, but her hearing was still very poor and hearing aids were going to be needed.
Chrissie finally returned to the gym in March 2014. A once weekly session with Dave Marsh began the slow process of re-learning balance that had been destroyed by meningitis affecting her semi circular canals, and strengthening the muscles that had disappeared after 8 months of inactivity.
Dave Marsh, one of our top personal trainers comments: “After Chrissie’s illness, she came to me for a rehabilitation programme, as per the recommendation by Jason Ford of Stroud Sports Clinic. This was designed to help her regain her strength and mobility alongside her ongoing physiotherapy. The meningitis affected her senses, and loss of hearing meant that her ability to balance was severely impaired. The condition also affected her right side more than the left leading to instability. The initial programme we started focused on improving the mobility in her muscles to regain full movement capabilities. This then progressed onto the basic movement patterns, looking at a squat, lunge, lift, press and pull, all of which would allow Chrissie to get back her love for exercise. I must admit it hasn’t been an easy road but Chrissie’s determination to overcome this terrible illness has shone through and her progress to date is inspiring. I’m extremely proud of her attitude and results, both as a trainer and her friend."
"Here you can see Chrissie performing a medicine ball plank, an exercise which requires great stability, balance and core strength and I think we can all agree she looks amazing!"
She then joined a weekly class taken by Hannah - it was exhausting and she had to rest afterwards but Chrissie is one of the most determined people you will ever meet so she soldiered on. Ron drove her backwards and forwards from the gym - no easy task for him as he himself has serious rheumatoid arthritis which has curtailed his life for over twenty years. One hour of classes per week built up to two then three. Gradually she increased the number of classes she attended - yoga, spin, pump, but always with a friend as falling over continued to be a major problem. Being near a wall gives her confidence as Chrissie still cannot walk more than a few yards, but she can lie on a mat, ride an exercise bike and use various pieces of equipment when supported.
On 14th June 2014 The Fifth Dimension organised a fund raising day to raise money towards the purchase of Chrissie's all important bluetooth hearing aids. There was an aerobathon where all participants wore fancy dress, and an auction with prizes all donated by other members including a PT session, a massage, a meal for four at a pub, a night away in a hotel, a spa session and various beauty treatments at the salon nearly next door. A fancy dress party at Go Bananas and an outdoor slide with a raffle also helped raise the total to a magnificent £1,000. This contribution enabled Chrissie's to be fitted with the devices - her ability to hear is improving and hopefully will continue to do so.
Hannah comments: "Chrissie is amazing, strong and inspirational, also stubborn in a good way - I didn't help her as much as she helped herself!"
Chrissie now attends classes every day except Sunday. Monday morning is balance, Tuesday pilates, in the last three months she has started attending spin on Wednesday, followed by pump, Thursday's is balance again and yoga, followed by Dave's session on Friday, and spin ball with Mel. Saturday is more pump and balance. Chrissie comments "the classes have given me my life back - Hannah, Julie, Emma, Marie and Mel have encouraged me all the way back to where I am now. I have made so many new and wonderful friends via classes - they even lie next to me at yoga to tell me what to do when I cannot hear. It has given me a completely new social life." It is certainly true to say that Chrissie has a healthy obsession with her fitness and is on a mission to recover a huge amount more over the next 18 months or so. She no longer needs regular brain scans, but still needs to work a lot on the muscles in her right leg to achieve better mobility. She has a massage from Jason every month to relieve stiffness, and Dave helps with that too. Dave also gives her nutritional advice as with all the exercise and needing to repair brain and muscular damage, she needs to eat as well as possible.
Her next ambition is to be able to walk around Victory Park independently - less than 100 yards are possible now. She is looking forward to be able to do more core and step exercise classes, and even HIIT classes - a form of cardio. She longs to get back behind the wheel of a car. Although her licence has not been taken away, her confidence is still poor, but she has given herself a target of April 2016 to start driving again, rather than continuing to rely on being driven by Ron or her lovely friends. Chrissie simply wants her independence back - she can't go do the simple things she used to on her own - like having coffee with friends and going shopping for presents. Getting on a bus is still a scary prospect as people can jump to the wrong conclusion if she sways when walking, especially up and down the uneven slopes of Stroud town centre.
Chrissie's recovery from near death has been due to three things - firstly, devoted support from Ron, (pictured below with her - in her gym kit of course), and her girl friends, secondly, amazing treatment from her team of trainers and therapists at the Fifth Dimension, and thirdly - the biggest factor has been her unwavering determination to overcome the devastating effects of meningitis and to challenge herself to reach a new stage in her recovery on a weekly basis. She is an inspiration to all who know her.