WHEN Tony Marsh suffered a heart attack at the age of just 52, he believed he’d never live to see the birth of his first grandchild.
The previous decade has seen him live in constant pain with a debilitating spinal condition called ankylosing spondylitis - a form of arthritis - which had forced his early retirement from his job as a saw operator in 1993.
The years of inactivity took its toll on his body, resulting in the heart attack and his emergency admission to the Northern General Hospital.
Tony said: “In the hospital, I was just lying on the trolley thinking this is it for me. This is the end. It was so frightening.”
But, just over a year later, Tony’s life has been transformed and he is enjoying his new role as grandad to six-month-old Oliver.
He initially underwent surgery to fit three stents to treat his weakened arteries and was allowed home to Wincobank just three days later.
From then on he was determined to change for the better.
He completed the Phase Three Cardiac Rehabilitation programme, before beginning Phase IV in January 2010 under the watchful eye of Dave Birds at Hillsborough Leisure Centre.
Tony, aged 54, said: “Spondylitis is a form of arthritis, and in my case, it causes great pain in all my joints – my ankle, wrist, hips, knees, knuckles, everything – I could only walk about 20 yards.
“The physical nature of my job meant I had always struggled at work. When I retired, I deteriorated physically and mentally and became really inactive.
“Dave developed a tailor-made, low-intensity exercise and diet programme too. I started with a weekly class devoted to cardiac patients, and after only a few weeks, saw big changes in my fitness and wellness.”
Tony joined Fitness Unlimited and now trains at both Hillsborough and Concord Sports Centre, both managed by Sheffield International Venues, twice a week, taking part in Silver Circuits classes as well as the cardiac class.
Dave, who was crowned Personal Trainer of the Year at the National Fitness Awards 2010, said: “It is incredible to think that not only has Tony overcome a serious heart attack, but now exercises four or five times a week, despite his condition.
“The programme has been personalised taking into account his previous heart problems and is designed to ensure it doesn’t impact on his joint pain by using things like the low-floor seated bikes in the gym and the low-impact, gentle exercise Silver Circuits classes.
“Tony has been a pleasure to work with and a true inspiration and we hope he continues to stay in good health in the future.”
And dad-of-two Tony, who is married to Denise, added: “The difference it has made to my life is incredible.
“I have lost over a stone and my cholesterol level is down from 7.7 to 3.4.
“I am not frightened about exercising with Dave’s support and expert knowledge. He is so reassuring and supportive.
“I feel better than I have done in years, I get out and about more and socialise, which has made me feel more confident and, most importantly, I will be able to watch Oliver grow up, which is something I never thought could be a reality two years ago.”