Ultra determined Andrew Turner is proof of success against the odds.
The 22-year-old is a muscle-bound 12st 4lb epitome of top fitness – yet just four years ago, he was battling a serious back injury, with doctors telling him his sporting days were over.
But Andrew, from Bishop Cuthbert in Hartlepool, refused to be beaten and, using his late grandfather as his inspiration, he fought back to become a bodybuilder.
Today, he had this message for other people wondering if they can overcome their own personal struggles after he battled back to health and lost almost eight stone.
“There is always a way to do something. You just have to find it and if you want it enough, you will find it.”
Andrew told how his life took a dramatic turn when he was studying Sport Exercise Science at Northumbria University four years ago. He said he was also playing as a prop forward for the university’s rugby first team when he “had a nasty turn” and could not continue.
MRI scans diagnosed a bulge in his spinal disc. The pain was so bad, his university roommates even had to help him get dressed.
Doctors, he said, told him he would never play again. “I didn’t believe them. I thought ‘there is always something you can do’,” said Andrew.
He admitted he was “so depressed” and that a mix of poor lifestyle and inactivity led his weight to balloon to 20 st.
Andrew needed an operation to remove the affected herniated disc and cut some muscle away.
But this, and two personal pieces of news, inspired him to changes his ways. His grandfather Reg Turner (the president of West Hartlepool Rugby Football Club) passed away and his grandmother Joyce Turner had a stroke.
Andrew admitted: “It registered what I was doing to myself and what my grandad would think of what I was doing.”
He began the painstaking road to recovery and said: “I started with swimming. It was all I could do.
“Then there was jogging and then the gym.”
He got help with rehabil-itation from the West physio Mike Geritz and enrolled himself on courses to learn about rehab.
Eventually, he became so fit he had a brief return to rugby before deciding bodybuilding was a better option.
“I was always quite muscly,” said Andrew, “I was always interested in body building and I wanted to show people I can do anything.”
Within two years, his weight had dropped by almost eight stone to 12st 4lbs through healthy lifestyle and exercise.
His return to education also gained him qualifications, which he put to good use by joining the team at Lifestyle Fitness at Hartlepool Marina.
Now, he advises people on back conditions.
Andrew has competed in the NABBA body building competition at the Borough Hall in Hartlepool and the UK BFF contest in Birmingham.
He urged other struggling people to follow his example and said: “If you want to find a way, you will find it. If you want to find an excuse, you will find that too.”