Cumbria man defies odds in BBC documentary

A documentary to screen on BBC One in the North East & Cumbria next Monday 18 October will see how a Penrith man with cystic fibrosis defied the odds to take part in a national body building competition.

Earlier this year, Jonny Simpson, aged 23, became the first person with the condition to enter a body building competition and achieved a third-place trophy at the National Athletics Committee Bodybuilding competition in Manchester – describing it as “one of the best days I’ve ever had.”

Jonny was born with cystic fibrosis – a chronic genetic condition which clogs the lungs with sticky mucus and makes it difficult to put on weight. As well as a twice-daily nebuliser, Jonny takes about 40 tablets a day.

It was only a few years ago that, as a teenager, he rebelled against his treatment, became seriously ill and, in his own words, “sunk to the bottom”.

“I was always too depressed to make any plans – every time I looked in mirror all I saw was this sick person that I didn’t want to be.”

His medical support team told him that unless he took action and turned things around that his future looked uncertain.

Looking at old pictures of himself as an underweight teenager, Jonny says: “I always strive to be the exact opposite of this now because this is my worst nightmare.”

Now an avid gym goer, and a healthy 11 stone (approx 70 kgs), in May this year Jonny married his American girlfriend, Miranda. She also has cystic fibrosis and had a double lung transplant in January this year.

Jonny has regular check-ups to make sure he’s keeping his condition at bay. Altogether, he’s spent at least two years of his life in hospital but his lung function is better than it’s been in years.

“Jonny’s doing very well,” says his consultant at the RVI, Dr Stephen Bourke. “I think it’s mainly due to his positive attitude – he’s really focused on his lungs and treatment.”

After his big success in Manchester, he says, “The dream doesn’t necessarily have to be bodybuilding – it’s just chase your dreams because you have one life and you’ve got to live it.”

Jonny will feature on BBC Inside Out (North East & Cumbria) on Monday, 18 October at 7.30pm – which will also be available nationally on BBC iPlayer.

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