Deb has always been fairly active, riding race horses most of her life, but she’d never been to a gym before, the thought terrified her actually.

About 10 years ago, a colleague of hers had been to a spin class at Abbeycroft’s Newmarket Leisure Centre, and Deb thought that sounded quite fun, so she tried it, like it and started to realise how much else there was going on at the centre, so she joined.

Deb had been a member for about 3 years, when her and her husband took a holiday in Derbyshire.

They had a great holiday, they’d played some sport together and her husband Matt hadn’t shown any symptoms of being unwell, but the day before they left, he started being sick and she knew there was something wrong because there was blood in the sink

As they were driving back home from Derbyshire the following day, they had almost reached Newmarket when he had a massive aesophageal bleed in the car which was terrifying as there was blood everywhere.

Deb called an ambulance and luckily they weren’t too far from Addenbrokes Hospital, so Matt was taken there, but the doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong with him, so he was kept in overnight for observation.

She remembers,

“The following day, one of the doctors called me to say that I needed to get there as quickly as possible as he was just about to go into theatre for surgery. When I arrived, it was very scary as there was blood coming out of everywhere and during surgery they couldn’t stop the bleeding.

He was given 24 units of blood followed by three days in intensive care and high dependancy – before they received the devastating news that Matt had Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), a chronic, or long-term, disease that slowly damages the bile ducts. Matt’s only hope for survival was to have a liver transplant.

But the demand for liver transplants is so great and donors are so few. So what followed for Deb and Matt was several years of hospital visits, adjusting to life with Matt’s condition, until five years ago when Matt’s MELD score reached a level that qualified him to go on the transplant list.

“Being on the list is so stressful because your life is controlled by the telephone.

We were called in once for a possible donor match, which then turned out to be unsuitable, so we agonised for an hour before we declined, and were put back on the list for a further 2.5 years. Eventually we got the call again which turned out to be a successful match and Matt had his liver transplant in July 2017.

But before Matt had his transplant, our daughter Grace came along in 2012 which we obviously thrilled about as we’ve always wanted to have children but it was also extremely tough having this impending fear that Matt might die at any time.

After Grace was born, life became quite difficult for me in as much as I was Matt’s full time carer whilst working full time myself, because we had gone down to one wage and we weren’t eligible for any help at all, and we were bringing up a little girl!

Matt used to look after Grace when she was little, whilst I went to work, and it was a constant worry for both of us that he would become ill and not be able to cope, but we had to make it work.

Even though time was so precious to me, I knew I had to stay healthy, not just for myself but for Grace and Matt too, as they both depended on me so much.

So despite my hectic schedule, I still made time to get to the gym to carry on doing my fitness classes.

They were a life saver for me!

When I was doing a class, it was an hour or so when I didn’t have to think about the situation at home. The other ladies in the class became like a second family to me, all so friendly and supportive, and they would give me a hug when I needed it.

Despite having had the liver transplant, Matt’s liver continues to give us concerns. There is always a risk that the PSC may return, and we’re obviously hoping and praying that it doesn’t as we’re not sure how we’ll stand for a second liver transplant. He has scans and tests every two weeks, and sometimes the results are quite positive but sometimes they are worrying.

“It’s an on-going nightmare to be honest, but all we can do is remain positive and hopeful and get on with life. We’re open and honest with Grace and she has been such an important part of motivating Matt to get up and get going so we’re all trying to live as normal a life as we can.

I’m working at Palace House now, riding ex race horses, and doing tours and I also teach a couple of evenings at the British Racing School. Matt is managing to work at Rossdales Equine Hospital, as an Equine radiographer.

Exercising with all my friends at Abbeycroft continues to keep me sane, it’s helped me stay energised when without it I would have been exhausted. It’s helped me cope with our situation, be a better Mum to Grace and a supportive wife to Matt.

If you’ve been inspired by Deb’s story why not get a FREE DAY PASS to one of our leisure centres and start your own inspirational fitness story.  Complete your details below for your free pass.

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