A single mum who was inspired by her boxer grandfather has battled against the odds to make it to the top of her profession.
University of Sunderland graduate Aimee Appleby, of Seaham, was determined she wanted to devote her career to helping others after she witnessed first-hand her grandad suffer a life-changing stroke.
Despite having few qualifications and a young son, the determined mum put herself through university before embarking on the career she dreamed of.
The 36-year-old said: “I had my son at 19, I was a single mum and I didn’t have the qualifications needed to get into university.”
But after completing an access course, Aimee applied and was accepted on a Sports Science programme at the University.
Aimee, mum to Lucca, 16, and Orla, five, said: “I had always been interested in the fitness industry but it was my grandad who really inspired me.”
Gene Devlin, of Seaham, was the British Army’s Boxing Champion in 1948 and he then turned professional and make a name for himself in the fighting world.
Tragically, when Aimee was just 13, her grandfather suffered a massive stroke and lost use of the right-side of his body.
Gene’s stroke and subsequent effort at recovery had a defining impact on Aimee.
“It was then that I knew I wanted to be a physiotherapist,” said Aimee. “Sitting holding my granddad’s hand, seeing how strong he was despite everything, really inspired me.”
Aimee was accepted on the three-year Sports Science programme at the University in 2004. She would later go on to achieve an MSc in Physiotherapy.
Sadly, Gene died on June 3, 2010, after seeing his granddaughter achieve her dream.
Three years later, Aimee began working with injured military service personnel, first in Edinburgh, and later at RAF Boulmer and Catterick in North Yorkshire.
Aimee decided to take son Lucca along to a boxing class in East Durham ran by coach David Binns where she asked if she could train too.
Through this, she became involved in acting as physio to high-profile North East boxer and Durham super-lightweight, Darren Surtees.
Aimee said: “Dave asked me to get involved in the training by offering physio support and that’s something I’ve been doing for a good few years now. I love it, it’s been brilliant.”
The mum-of-two has now started her own business, Reform-2-Perform, at Seaham Marina.
Specialising in pilates, physiotherapy, acupuncture and sports massage, Aimee opened her business in July this year.
She said: “If nothing else, I hope my story shows young women that they can still fulfill their career ambitions no matter what obstacles they might be facing."
Dr David Archer, senior lecturer in Sports and Exercise Sciences at the University of Sunderland, said: “Aimee was a great student to teach, very able, dedicated and well-organised, managing the juggling act of studying full time and being a mum.
“We were very happy to see her go onto greater things. She deserves every success she has had.”