Katy Frost, now 21, lost all her toes when she was just 10-years-old due to a sudden illness that put her in a medically induced coma. After years of struggling with her weight and fitness, it wasn't until she started training with Gymbox VPT Ryan Lea that she has now been able to find a strength within her that she never has before. "The atmosphere at Gymbox and the people who work there have helped me become more confident within myself" she says. We meet this truly inspirational woman.
Hi Katy. You’re only 21 and you’ve spent half your life so far being unwell, what happened?
I was on a school trip to the Isle of Wight when I became very ill, and was rushed to Southampton general hospital. They didn’t know what was wrong with me. I suffered multiple organ failure, and was put into a induced coma. The drugs I was given led to me losing my toes, and significant scarring around my feet and ankles.
That’s horrendous. What was eventually diagnosed?
A condition called medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency, MCADD for short. It’s a rare metabolic disorder that's mostly found in babies – it’s very rarely diagnosed after the age of 15 months. Not being able to break down medium chain fats means that there is a threat of running out of glucose in the liver that's very dangerous for me.
How did you first feel when you learned you had lost your toes?
It’s hard to remember what I thought – I honestly can’t remember the day I was told. My feet were kept in bandages for a long time to protect the skin blisters. However, at the time there was so much going on that I just accepted the situation I was in. I actually had the operation later on – I remember feeling scared and nervous. At that young age I think I was unaware of how significant everything was.
What has your recovery been like?
I spent a couple of months at Southampton General Hospital, then I was transferred to Brighton hospital. I began physical therapy after a few weeks. My last day in hospital was the first day I stood up and took a few steps. It was a huge moment, I was quite a reluctant and moody patient, but when I had the strength to move I felt happiness and hope. I went home from hospital in a wheelchair, and continued rehab at the Chailey Heritage Foundation. Not moving properly for so long was hard, but with a lot of encouragement my walking improved. It was exhausting, but after many more months of physical therapy I finally began to walk unaided.
That's amazing. This must have been a frustrating time for you. What helped you get through it?
My family have been my rock. However, the person who stayed with me every day was my mum. She was, and still is, amazing. I was a very grumpy person during that period in hospital, and she never complained, never made me feel bad. She was there for me, always. My friends were also great, and when I could finally go back to school they looked after me and made the transition back to school as comfortable as possible. There were so many amazing people who were involved in my recovery that I could write a book of names. I’m just very grateful to them all.
You gained a lot of weight over this period, how hard was this to combat, physically as well as emotionally?
I've always struggled with my weight, but when I came out of hospital I was in a wheelchair, and was eating far more than I should have been. Not a good combination! It’s made me depressed, self conscious and frustrated. As soon as I was able to walk again I was referred by my doctor to the local gym to try and improve my mobility and fitness. I had a trainer and felt supported. It was something positive to do which I really needed. We started with gentle cardio which increased my mobility and over time began increasing the intensity. I looked forward to going and liked the gym atmosphere. As I became stronger I started not to fear things as much as I did when I first started walking again.
Inspirational. What made you choose Gymbox?
I'd been going the local gym on my own for years. However, over the years I became comfortable in my workouts, I didn’t push myself. I was never able to find a love for fitness, until I discovered Gymbox, which I found out about online. The first thing that attracted me was the bright colours, the bold writing, and the energy. It looked new and exciting. My first time going there I felt apprehensive, but over the time I've been training I've grown to love being there. The gym has great energy, the equipment is high quality, and the atmosphere is motivating. Joining Gymbox has been the best decision I've ever made! Not just because I enjoy going, but because I found a great trainer, Ryan Lea.
How has having Ryan as a VPT impacted on your training, and your life?
I feel extremely lucky to have Ryan as my PT. I chose Ryan because he knew about strength and conditioning, which is the main thing I wanted to improve on. Since the beginning he has had more faith in me than I've ever had in myself. Ryan has been a huge support in helping me accept my condition, and coming to terms with what has happened and the struggles I have faced with regards to my feet. A huge part of recovering has been my mental attitude towards myself. Joining Gymbox, the atmosphere and the people who work there have helped me become more confident within myself. He has taught me a huge amount already, and has built not only my strength, but also my attitude to the way I perceive my myself and the positivity for the future. Ryan’s a great person and a great trainer!
That’s amazing to hear. What kind of training have you been doing with him?
We work on strength mainly – we do barbell squats, shoulder press and deadlifts. We also add in cardio. Ryan has great knowledge. I trust him with regards to technique, and he pushes me with weights safely. We continue to improve and strive to become better. Each week we progress. One of my overall goals with regards to training is hitting a 100kg squat. It may take a month – or a year – but I won’t give up, and I wont ever settle until I get there!
Good for you! What were the biggest fears you have overcome so far?
Failure, looking stupid, people not liking me. These are a few of the things that was filling my mind when I first started at Gymbox. I no longer worry about them so much. I now know there will be days when I do fail, and that’s fine. Every day is a new day, and I start fresh.
And to still to overcome?
At the moment it’s losing weight – I’m working on that. I’m discovering that my mindset towards weight is much deeper than I first thought. I have a condition that means losing weight will take longer than other people. This means I have had struggles with staying on track. This is my next challenge to face, but I feel confident that I will overcome it.
What are you able to do now which you never thought possible?
I never thought I'd be confident enough to use weights on my own at the gym, but I now do it without thinking. I never thought I would come to a place in my life were I'd be comfortable enough to tell people about my feet. This interview is the first time I've said it out loud to people who aren’t close friends or family.
We're full of admiration for you. How have you changed as a person?
My self-esteem and confidence are slowly increasing. Instead of looking at myself, and looking at all the imperfections and everything that I hate, I see areas I can improve on. I have more determination to achieve my goals, and I look forward to each day that comes. I’m more positive and happier than ever before. My feet will always be something I struggle with. I wear socks 98% of the time so I don’t have to look at them. The difference now is that I’m not ashamed of them. I’m in a the best place within myself that I’ve ever been.
What would you say to anyone reading this who is trying to come to terms with a trauma?
I'd say to them to try and remember there are days where it will be hard and you can feel angry and upset – and it’s alright to feel that way. Try to keep in mind that you are strong and powerful. Never give up on yourself, and remember that the days that face you are ones you can control, which means you can do anything you want with them. Being different is not a bad thing, and not something to be ashamed or embarrassed of – it makes you who you are. What happened to me helped me become the person I am today, and I’m proud of that. Be proud of yourself.
Read our interview with Ryan Lea next week.