'AMPUTATION was was the best and worst thing to happen to me' - a GB paralympian 'inspired' QA Hospital workers with his story and body positivity.
Wheelchair rugby pro Aaron Phipps visited QA Hospital in Cosham on Wednesday as part of a body positivity day for Mental Health Awareness Week.
The 32-year-old from Southampton said he was 'humbled' to share his tips on how he stays well both mentally and physically. 'I give a lot of talks to businesses and schools but it's great to be able to talk to people in the medical profession and give something back,' he said.
'They saved my life. It was so humbling to be at QA - I teared up.
'One of the nurses who was there worked at St Mary's when I had my first prosthetic limb so it was really special to see her again.'
Aaron had both his legs and many of his fingers amputated after contracting meningitis type C aged 15.
He said: 'I almost died when I was 15. It was the best and worst thing to happen to me. It opened doors for me to things that I would never have done before.'
Since meeting his wife Vicky in his 20s Aaron took up wheelchair rugby and was instantly hooked, going on to play for Great Britain in the 2012 Paralympic Games.
'The 2012 games was one of my biggest achievements outside of having my daughters Ella and Chloe,' he said.
Aaron made history in 2016 becoming the first disabled British person to reach the top of Kilimanjaro without assistance.
He added: 'When I couldn't go up in my wheelchair anymore I crawled for four days on my hands and knees to get to the top.
'For me body imagine is tied in with wellbeing and looking after yourself. I am a massive advocate for looking after yourself and keeping well.
'If you maintain a healthy lifestyle it does make you feel so much better about yourself.'
For Jenny Michael, the health, safety and wellbeing manager at QA, it was 'inspirational' to hear Aaron's story. She said: 'Many of us have or will face challenges in our lives that can put obstacles in the way of our goals or our willingness to make healthy lifestyle choices.
'Whilst Aaron made some pretty big and ambitious steps to reach his goals we all make our own choices as to where we set ours, even setting small, realistic goals to improve your health and wellbeing can lead to greater things in the future.'
QA is aiming to promote awareness of mental health in the workplace to benefit both staff and patients.
The hospital's director of workforce, Nicole Cornelius, said: 'Having a healthy workforce helps us to provide the care that we need to give. Staff here do work really hard and face a lot of pressure.
'We want to lose the stigma about mental health so staff feel like they can talk about it.'