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Updated 22 May 2018

Woman who clinically died twice defies the odds and becomes a bodybuilder!

Her heart defects also prevented her from taking part in any sports at school out of fear for her health.

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After four open-heart surgeries and even clinically dying during two of them, this British woman born with three holes in her heart has defied the expectations of doctors who thought she wouldn’t survive to live a full life!

And now she competes as a professional bodybuilder.

Acupuncturist Samantha Gallier (27), who grew up on the Isle of Wight, was just 10 days old when doctors diagnosed her with having congenital heart defects that weren’t picked up when she was born.

Sammi was born with a trio of holes in her heart, narrowing of the aorta, narrowing of the pulmonary vein and a faulty valve, none of which were noticed until about 10 days after she was born.

Sammi’s childhood was marred by surgeries and hospital appointments which frequently took her out of school and stopped her from having the experiences her peers had.

Her heart defects also prevented her from taking part in any sports at school out of fear for her health.

During two of her operations, Sammi was clinically dead for two minutes each time, and had to be defibrillated back to life both times.

Now in a far improved state of health, Sammi has been weight training and bodybuilding for the past five years, after her loving husband, Tom, encouraged her to give it a try.

“I’ve had numerous bouts of pleurisy [inflammation of the tissues that line the lungs and chest cavity], pneumonia, septicaemia and heart failure. As a child, I was Christened in the hospital before one of my operations as they didn’t think I’d make it,” Sammi explained.

“When I had my last operation at 12 years old it was hard to take. I remember not wanting to look at my scar. That’s already a really hard time in a girl’s life and then add in a health condition which limits how you live your life.”

Having congenital heart defects has always restricted Sammi’s lifestyle, but once she found bodybuilding she was finally able to embrace her passion and got to share experiences with the most elite in the sport.

“I’ve always been a slim girl and dreamed of putting on weight but was trying to do it the wrong way,” she said.

“I used to be on the border of having high blood pressure and there were talks of me being put back on medication for life.

“But since I started going to the gym even my cardiac consultants were so impressed with how healthy I am and how well my heart is doing.

“The biggest health benefit I’ve had is my fitness levels have improved and my blood pressure has stabilised.”

Sammi is aware of the risks involved in pushing herself too hard and she respects her body’s limits, as well as understanding that every person with a heart defect will face different limits themselves.

Samantha Gallier

She tries to work out four to five times a week, but doctors put a cap on how much she can lift (nothing more than 70kg).

“The risks for me are getting my heart rate above 155 beats per minute or getting my blood pressure too high because of the scar tissue on my aortic arch which I can’t put pressure on,” she added.

If Sammi’s heart rate were to go over 155 beats a minute she’d risk rupturing the scarring on her aortic arch, requiring further surgery to close this up again.

“I avoid going over my limits by not doing one rep lifts and not straining or holding my breath while lifting.

“I keep check of my heart rate with a heart rate monitor while I work out.”

Despite the odds being against her, Sammi competed in a bodybuilding competition last year.

“My goals now are to build more muscle and compete again. I’ve had people doubt me, but I just prove them wrong,” she said.

“People who know me know that it would take a lot for me to stop living my life.”

Sammi’s doctors are hopeful she won’t need any more open-heart operations in her life so she’s free to continue competing while inspiring and motivating others.

Source: Magazine Features

PHOTO: CATERS/WWW.MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA

 
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