Heidi Morrison, 41, was diagnosed with a rare form of cholera when she was just 17 while living in Tenerife with her parents.
She became progressively ill resulting in Crohn’s Disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, and in 2012 weighing just five and half stones, Heidi underwent a major operation to remove a section of her bowel.
She was fitted with a stoma bag and her condition left feeling permanently weak and tired.
But she took up running after being introduced to parkrun by a friend where people of all fitness abilities join in free, weekly, community runs.
Heidi is now a run director for the Hartlepool parkrun at Seaton Carew, event director for the junior parkrun at Rossmere Park and is a volunteer outreach ambassador for the activity.
And as well as enjoying exercise classes in the gym several times a week, she has volunteered with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s Active Hospital team to help deliver Movement is Medicine sessions with patients who would benefit from increased movement.
Heidi, mum to Manal, 19, Aqeel, 11, and Isla, five, said: “Back in 2012 I nearly died. But I didn’t die and on my return home I began to get gradually stronger and feel better.
“A friend of mine recommended joining parkrun. Running. No chance I thought.
"But I went along, and while I can’t say I exactly ran it, I finished the full 5km and felt terrific.
“And like that I was hooked.”
Working in partnership with Stockton’s Splash leisure centre, Heidi has led group sessions with patients to encourage them to find ways to fit regular movement into their daily lives.
Further sessions will start at Hartlepool’s Brierton leisure centre in July.
Heidi added: “The main problem is people’s perception of ‘exercise’. They think it’s expensive, takes time, means you have to join a gym or a club or spend money on specialist gear.
"But going for a walk after dinner with the family is active movement.”
Outpatients manager and Active Hospitals lead Michael Butler said of Heidi: “She has inspired so many people already and I’m sure this is only the start.”