A YOUNG man born with a life-limiting disease has shown fighting spirit both in and out of the ring.
Wrexham mixed martial arts (MMA) competitor Aaron Aby was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth, and is keen to show that those affected by the genetic disorder can succeed in spite of their condition.
Cystic fibrosis, which is the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited disease, affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick, sticky mucus.
The average life expectancy for a baby born with cystic fibrosis is between 30 and 40.
But despite his condition – which means Aaron must take between 30 and 50 tablets each day – the 24-year-old has represented Wales in football from the under-13s to the under-17s and is now ranked as one of the top 20 MMA fighters in the country.
Aaron said his illness put an end to his dream of becoming a professional footballer, but he remained optimistic.
“It was hard when I was told I could no longer play because of my condition. It was a proud moment though when I left and everyone in the room stood up and clapped.
“I look back now and think how it spurred me on to do other things.”
Aaron was seriously ill in 2011 and had to have part of his colon removed.
After the operation, his left lung collapsed and he was a moved to a high-dependency ward with round-the-clock care.
He said: “My fear was that I would never get better – something was always going wrong and there were moments when I thought I was going to die.”
But a message from his dad Jon, which said “you have got to think you are getting better” spurred him on to turn the corner.
“I’m not ‘lucky’ to be healthy and fit now; this is something I really worked hard to achieve,” Aaron said. “Having cystic fibrosis has made me mentally tough and has made me appreciate that life is an opportunity of endless potential.
“My girlfriend, Hayley Braisdel, is really supportive. We met at school and have been together since we were 16. We grew up in the same group of friends which we are still very close to now.
“One day I hope to become a dad and I hope to live long enough to see my children grow up. This is my motivation for looking after myself and doing things that will keep me well. My mantra is to keep raising positive awareness about cystic fibrosis and enjoy life while you are here.”
Aaron has also set up his own business as a performance coach, training professional athletes and members of the public.
To help spur on others with similar dreams, Aaron expressed his support for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, which will launch a young entrepreneurs award on Monday.
For more information about the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s Helen Barrett Young Entrepreneurs Award, visit www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk/entrepreneurs