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Belfast woman Bridget Maguire feels 10 years younger after recovering from debilitating illness


Feeling fit: Bridget Maguire is involved in activities at the Maureen Sheehan Centre in Belfast
Feeling fit: Bridget Maguire is involved in activities at the Maureen Sheehan Centre in Belfast
Bridget Maguire with Dr Nicole Blackburn

By Judith Cole

Bridget Maguire (75), a retired teacher, lives in Belfast. She says:

Health-wise, this past year has been the best of my life for a very long time - and it's all thanks to getting involved in activities at the Maureen Sheehan Centre in Belfast.

Before, I suffered from debilitating illness. I've had asthma for more than 20 years and two years ago I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis - I've been attending respiratory outpatients at the Royal Victoria Hospital several times a year.

Last year was particularly difficult as I had numerous chest infections and pneumonia which resulted in an overnight stay in hospital. The chest infections left me housebound for several weeks at a time. I became very inactive and downhearted, and I gained weight through sitting around.

I also had dangerously high blood pressure and was rushed to hospital at the beginning of this year.

As well as all this, I had been suffering from severe chronic sciatica in my left leg for a number of years which prevented me from being the very active person I normally was. I had numerous tests and scans before sciatica was diagnosed.

When I heard about the SITLESS study I'd been spending a lot of time sitting at home, unable to do a lot of housework or other activities. So, sitting less was just what I needed.

It was through a lady who runs a parish luncheon club for seniors and whose husband participated in SITLESS that I heard about it. She highly recommended it to us senior ladies and told us how to get in touch with the researchers at Queen's University.

At the time I was very inactive and my energy levels were pretty low, so I was happy to hear about a study that could be beneficial for me. That day a year ago I went home and made my initial contact with the researcher by telephone - and the rest is history.

When I started the SITLESS programme at the Maureen Sheehan Centre, I was advised to start using the gym - the treadmill and cross trainer - and I also began to do circuits which I really love.

The SITLESS programme has made me so aware of what I'm doing now. I used to be so sedentary - I used to sit and watch television a lot, and read a lot, but now I make myself get up and walk around. My whole body has changed - it's wonderful.

Everyone has noticed a change in me. The daily exercise and walking has eased my sciatica. It is still there but I can cope with it and can walk long distances without getting tired and sore. I can cope better with the pain. My body mass index (BMI) has changed and I have toned up and lost some weight over the last few months. 

I haven't had a chest infection at all since I started going to the Maureen Sheehan Centre a year ago. I've attended the respiratory clinic at the Royal for a check-up and was told I was much improved. This is all due to self-management which the SITLESS study encouraged. My respiratory doctor was impressed that I'd joined SITLESS and said that my increased physical activity had really helped my breathing and strengthened my immune system. I can't believe how energetic and motivated I've become.

I also feel about 10 years younger and can do a lot more housework. I count my steps daily and keep a record. I've made new friends and look forward to my gym sessions twice a week and catching up with them. I have widened my horizons, I'm travelling more now and I've taken part in other activities offered to improve my health. Last week we got a bus from the Maureen Sheehan Centre to Ballyholme and walked to Bangor. It was absolutely uplifting.

My participation in more physical activity hasn't just helped me, it has helped my brother too.

He is the only close family member near me now. I was a 'war baby', born in 1943 in Belfast to devoted parents. I was an only girl, the eldest, with five younger brothers. We've always been a close-knit family but my family is now scattered - two brothers live in the Republic of Ireland and one is in Dungannon. The youngest, who is single, lives in the family home a few streets away from me. I'm single, and although I have travelled extensively, I now live back in Belfast close to my unmarried brother. 

I live in an apartment and my immediate neighbours are very supportive and have taken care of me when I've been ill.

I helped to take care of my brother when he was ill two years ago. Although he's much better now, I still visit him five days a week and we have meals together.

And he accompanies me now to the Maureen Sheehan Centre two days a week. He loves getting out and meeting people, and we come home from it feeling elated as a result of the physical activity.

Bridget Maguire with Dr Nicole Blackburn
Bridget Maguire with Dr Nicole Blackburn

A year ago I would never have dreamt I could achieve so much in such a short while. My goal is to 'sit less' for the rest of my days."

Belfast Telegraph


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