A mother who suffered a life-changing injury during the birth of her son, leaving her with irreversible damage, is tackling a gruelling endurance challenge for charity.
Gillian Castle, from Alnwick, has been training hard to prepare for the Outlaw Half Nottingham – a 1.2-mile open-water swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.
And for the 37-year-old, the arduous event will be all the more difficult as she has to live with a debilitating condition, caused by her pregnancy and affecting her on a daily basis.
In October 2011, during the birth of her only child Sam, complications resulted in Gillian undergoing a permanent colostomy. She now requires the use of colostomy bags.
The ordeal changed her life completely and she lost her much-loved job as a police officer. She also suffered a miscarriage a few years later.
But she is determined to live as normal a life as possible, and, by tackling the half-Ironman event, she wants to show that life can carry on.
And she is doing the May 21 challenge in aid of the Birth Trauma Association (BTA), which supports all women who have had a traumatic birth experience.
Gillian, married to Chris, said: “Sam was six weeks premature and the birth resulted in me suffering a permanent colostomy and other injuries that were finally resolved with extensive surgeries in 2011/12.
“I still suffer daily issues as a result of my injuries and experience and colostomy is my life partner.
“In April 2013, I was medically discharged from my much-loved career as a police officer due to the irreversible injuries I suffered.
“I found the whole experience profoundly traumatic and experienced post-traumatic stress in the years following the birth. I subsequently suffered a miscarriage, which was also badly managed.
“I am fund-raising for the BTA because they are the only charity who specifically support women who have suffered birth injuries and their families.
“The organisation raises awareness of this hidden subject and researches ways in which to reduce the risk of more women being injured in childbirth. I also want to prove that life can and will carry on after such life-changing injuries, because I lost a lot of hope initially.
“Women should have confidence that they will be looked after during childbirth and sadly this isn’t always the case. I am one of the lucky ones and have been able to engage in a healthy active life due to my supportive family and friends.
“Please donate so that others don’t have to suffer alone and so that child birth becomes the magical experience women deserve.”
The Outlaw Half Nottingham will certainly be a challenge for Gillian and not just because she will be competing with a colostomy bag. The mum-of-one, who is a tour guide at Alnwick Castle, is scared of open-water swimming.
The Alnwick Tri Club member said: “It’s vile and I hate it and I’ve never done an open-water triathlon before. It’s the fear of what is lurking beneath.”
Gillian has already smashed her fund-raising target, collecting more than £1,400. She has thanked everyone who has supported her, as well as her loved ones who have looked after Sam while she is training.
To sponsor Gillian, visit her online fund-raising page.