A WIDNES engineer diagnosed who suffered a severe brain haemorrhage on his birthday last year is fighting back.

A year after a life threatening injury, he is a weightlifting champion.

Describing the life-changing moment that left him at death's door on April 10, Jon Towell, 46, said: "I was one week away from competing in Athens and was down in the gym in Derby and had a brain haemorrhage. I managed to crawl back to the hotel where I went in and out of consciousness.

"My wife Jenny came down to surprise me and found me on the bed. If she hadn't I would be dead."

He went to Derby Hospital where a brain scan showed he had suffered a brain haemorrhage.

He was then sent to Nottingham Neurological Unit where he spent two weeks undergoing brain procedures.

"Luckily, because I was at the height of my fitness, the doctors didn't have to cut through my brain and went through my groin instead which would heal. I had to lie flat for two weeks," he said.

Then came the crushing blow.

He added: "The doctors said I probably wouldn't be able to compete again. I thought my life was over. From being in the top 10 in crossfit to have that taken away from me.

"I struggled with walking for a couple of weeks and had blood in my spine. I couldn't exercise properly so started doing low intensity workouts such as cycling."

Not to be defeated, Jon who had always a keen interest in weight lifting decided to visit Olympic Pride Performance Gym in Warrington and speak to coaches Heather and Andy.

Jon started training in June 2019 where he was the only masters athlete and managed to qualify for the English Grand Prix Championships in Milton Keynes in November 3 in the Masters 3 (45-49 age category) - 89kg bodyweight category and has become English Champion for his age and weight class.

He lifted an 86kg snatch for a personal best and a 115kg clean and jerk for a personal best total of 201kg and a gold medal.

He added: "I won the British on Saturday, March 7 by lifting one kilo more than the silver medallist. I won the British because it was a team effort.

"From that I managed to qualify for the European and World Championships in November and December this year.

"It's been a life saver going to the gym. I used to train six days a week but now I train when my body lets me."

Speaking of Jon's remarkable journey in less than a year, Heather Flannery who runs the weightlifting gym with Andy Griffiths who has qualified for the British Seniors in June and is currently ranked second in Britain, said: "I can't put into words how proud of him we are. It's incredible that he wanted to do the training and now he's qualified."

The weight-specialised gym has been running nearly two years and also teaches in schools and runs classes for all ages.

As he doesn't receive any financial assistance to fund his travels, Jon is currently trying to get sponsorship for flights for his trainers to travel with him to the USA and Europe for the competitions.

He has set up a gofundme page which you can have a look by clicking here.

And what will he be doing for his birthday this year? "Celebrating being alive."