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How Preston man defied heart illness to become medal-winning athlete

Posted on - 28th July, 2017 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - News, People, Sport, Walton-le-Dale
Gary Still competed for Team GB in Malaga
Gary Still competed for Team GB in Malaga

A Preston man who had a heart transplant has become a world champion athlete – just 18 months after being confined to a hospital bed.

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Gary Still, from Walton-le-Dale, picked up three medals in the World Transplant Games.

The 23-year-old was struck down in summer 2015 by what doctors thought was a sudden virus that attacked his heart.

He was diagnosed with heart failure and needed a heart transplant.

Following a three month recovery he was wanting to build up his strength and fitness so he began training for becoming part of Team GB.

Gary and his team mates travelled to Malaga at the end of June 2017 to take part in the week-long World Transplant Games, competing with athletes from all across the globe. Gary threw an amazing 26.67 metres in the discus, which saw him scoop the Gold, as well as Silver medals in the shot-put and basketball.

Gary competing at the British Transplant Games
Gary competing at the British Transplant Games

He said: “Prior to the point I started to feel ill that summer, I had been in good health, I worked out at the gym around three or four times a week and I had a good job in IT. But I quickly started to deteriorate and after a few weeks, I could hardly walk down the street without getting out of breath.

“After my heart attack and transplant, I lost around four stone in weight, but I quickly started to get myself fit and strong again.

“I wanted to see what sports I could put my strength to use in, which is where I started to train in the discus and shotput. I can’t believe what I’ve been able to achieve so far and I’m hoping to better this in the future.”

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Gary’s illness means he needs to live in a supported flat at Bat6, run by Barnados, in Leyland.

Gary said: “For several months after my illness, my mind was just on surviving and I had forgotten what I needed to do in real life as my mum and others had to do everything for me. The staff at Barnardo’s helped me deal with the everyday things in life I needed to learn to do to live on my own, such as sort my disability benefits whilst I was recovering, learn to cook, pay bills and sort my own housing.”

Children’s services manager at Barnardo’s Bay6 Jenny Ashcroft said: “Everyone here at Bay6 could not be prouder of Gary and his incredible achievements. What makes his medal stash all the more remarkable is that he has overcome the odds and continued to astound not only friends and family, but also doctors, with the speed and strength of his recovery following his transplant. We look forward to seeing what more Gary will achieve, he has very bright hopes for the future.”

Inspired by Gary’s story? He’s encouraging people to join the Organ Donation register run by the NHS.

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