A Cystic Fibrosis sufferer whose lungs were severely damaged by a mystery virus could find himself on the cover of a glossy magazine.
Ben Mudge (22) is one of five finalists in competition to be the Men's Health Cover Model of 2012.
He turned to fitness training to help him cope better with his condition. Now his lungs, which had been operating at just two-thirds capacity, are back to normal. He discovered that exercise helped him feel much healthier and gave up his job working in Northern Ireland's film industry to re-train as a fitness instructor.
Earlier this year he decided to enter a competition run by the UK's best-selling men's glossy magazine which challenges its readers to get into shape.
Ben's perfect physique caught the attention of the judging panel and he is one of five men now vying to make the front cover.
“I was born with Cystic Fibrosis which affects the lungs. When I was no age, my dad — who's into fitness himself — used to make me do press-ups to help strengthen my chest, to give me good posture so my breathing would be clearer,” said the Co Antrim man.
“I always found exercise made me feel better, along with taking my medication every time I eat.
“Cystic Fibrosis makes you tired and prone to chest infections and a few years ago I ended up in hospital. Beforehand, my lung function had been 100%, but I got some type of virus and it dropped to 66%.’’
A doctor told him that his lungs were damaged and would stay at 66% for the rest of his life.
But Ben wasn't to be beaten and tried out a treadmill in a nearby room, telling the doctors he missed exercise. They were doubtful at first, but within a week his lung function was up to 77%. After completing a media course, Ben began working as a trainee assistant director, but took ill again.
So he quit his job, and qualified as a fitness consultant. He now works as a personal trainer at Fitness First, Connswater, and his lung function is 99%.
“If I win, it'll be more important for people who have Cystic Fibrosis than it will be for me,” he said.
“If even one boy with Cystic Fibrosis looks at me on the cover of the biggest fitness magazine in the world and says, ‘If he can do it, so can I,’ I'll be delighted.”
This Saturday, Ben will be at Fitness First, Connswater, giving a talk for the children's charity, Cash for Kids. To vote for Ben in the Men's Health contest,go to www.menshealth.co. uk/building-muscle/ cover-model
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is one of the UK's most common life-threatening inherited diseases, with over 9000 sufferers here. Caused by a faulty gene, CF affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with CF and two young lives are lost to it.