Great Yarmouth fitness instructor ready for pageant stage after battling ill health

Helen Grimes who is a fitness instructor at Fitness 2000. She wants to inspire others to keep active and improve their chances of recovery after her own remarkable fight-back to health following a kidney transplant almost three years ago.

Picture: James Bass Helen Grimes who is a fitness instructor at Fitness 2000. She wants to inspire others to keep active and improve their chances of recovery after her own remarkable fight-back to health following a kidney transplant almost three years ago. Picture: James Bass

Friday, August 8, 2014
8:12 AM

A kidney transplant patient is donning her bikini and flexing her pecs after a remarkable fight-back from serious illness.

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Helen Grimes who is a fitness instructor at Fitness 2000. She wants to inspire others to keep active and improve their chances of recovery after her own remarkable fight-back to health following a kidney transplant almost three years ago.

Picture: James BassHelen Grimes who is a fitness instructor at Fitness 2000. She wants to inspire others to keep active and improve their chances of recovery after her own remarkable fight-back to health following a kidney transplant almost three years ago. Picture: James Bass

Helen Grimes, 48, was dogged by ill-health as a child and nick-named ‘The Hulk’ at high school.

But now the glamorous grandmother is hoping to inspire other victims of disease to keep active and improve their chances of recovery following a successful operation almost three years ago.

Mrs Grimes, an instructor at Fitness 2000 in Great Yarmouth, is competing at a national level in the Miss Galaxy Universe pageant in Crawley, East Sussex, which celebrates female fitness.

And the transformation that would astound former school chums is all the more extraordinary given the chronic nature of her debilitating condition which meant, at times, even getting through the day was a challenge.

Having bounced back to full health she intends to celebrate the third anniversary of her life-saving transplant by competing in the beach-body category of the competition in November.

It will be her second attempt at securing a coveted placing after first stepping up on stage in June and on competition days her honed body is a vision of spray-tanned vitality, draped in a glitzy dress.

For Mrs Grimes, who has two grown-up daughters Hailey and Michaela as well as a grandson William, it is a chance to put her illness behind her for a day and also say thank you to the donor for giving her a new lease of life she is grabbing with both hands.

She also hopes to inspire other people to embrace the benefits of exercise by taking a title.

“It is about looking healthy and not like you have been starving yourself,” she said. “And it is nice to dress up and have a bit of a pose. It is nerve-wracking and an amazing adrenaline rush. It is more of a confidence building thing.”

As a child she was in and out hospital until she was around 10-years-old, missing whole chunks of schooling. Finally after years of problems she was diagnosed with a reflux problem which meant urine went up into the kidneys.

Although the fault corrected itself the organs were severely damaged. She went on to have two children but her kidney function deteriorated with each pregnancy. She found aerobics at around 28 and was hooked.

Eventually the kidneys gave up and she succumbed to tiredness and sickness and an exhausting six months of dialysis.

“I was really lucky because I didn’t have to wait too long. Mine was really quick. I had a phone call at around 3am and went straight to Addenbrookes. There were two or three people also there for it but I was the best match. It was a quick recovery and the new kidney started working straight away.”

Mrs Grimes, whose husband of 24 years Sean is also a fitness instructor, takes a host of anti-rejection drugs every day, which give her a heightened risk of skin cancer so she keeps out of the sun.

“I do not know the person who gave me the kidney,” she added. “It is just my way of saying thank you because I have been able to go on and do what I have wanted to. I was very lucky and the recovery is so much quicker if you are fitter.”

Do you have a health story? Contact liz.coates@archant.co.uk

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