Hailsham woman told she could have ‘dropped dead’

Val Johnson now weighs nine stone seven pounds
Val Johnson now weighs nine stone seven pounds

A woman diagnosed with an enlarged heart who was told she could drop dead or have a stroke ‘any day’ has turned her life around after losing seven stone.

Val Johnson, 63, from Hailsham, weighed 16 stone seven pounds and was a dress size 22/24.

During a routine visit to her GP, she said he took one look at her and said she could drop dead or have a stroke any day – and further tests revealed she had an enlarged heart and dangerously high blood pressure.

Val said: “I ate and ate and did no exercise. It was all my own fault.”

She vowed to do something about it and the next day decided to walk to Hailsham Leisure Centre and start swimming.

She said: “It took me 45 minutes to get to the pool and I had to keep stopping. I was huffing and puffing and pretended I had to cross the road so that I could pause to catch my breath.”

When she eventually reached the pool, Val managed five lengths before becoming worn out. She then walked home. The next day she did it all again.

Val says the Hailsham Leisure Centre team were very friendly and welcoming and gave her both advice and encouragement. Hallum Evison, who runs the centre’s Swimathon event, advised Val on her swimming technique and Matt Squires, from the customer services team, helped spur her on. Stephanie Wadlow, who runs the Re:balance weight loss courses, gave Val advice on diet and recommended healthy changes.

Over the next few weeks and months, the weight dropped off as Val combined walking and swimming.

Val also chose fresh, healthy food and cut her portion sizes. Val lost seven stone in two years and has kept the weight off for a year.

She now weighs 9 stone 7 pounds and is a size 10/12. She swims 40 lengths two to three times a week – and the walk to the leisure centre now takes her just 15 minutes.

She continued: “I was very self-conscious when I started to swim but the encouragement of the staff and other swimmers helped enormously. Now I find that I’m the inspiration for people to follow my example to lose weight through swimming. When ladies have lost a pound or two, they come and tell me and it makes me really pleased to hear that they are on the same positive journey to better health.”

Nicole White, Freedom Leisure centre manager, said: “Val is an inspiration to many and her commitment to losing weight and regaining her fitness has certainly paid off.

“I would urge anyone else feeling as Val felt to try swimming to kick start a healthier lifestyle and they are assured of our support and help here at Hailsham Leisure Centre.”