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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Back from the brink
by Eric Simpson
BBC News Online, East Midlands

Penny runs eight miles a day
Penny Bunn was staring death in the face - and she knew it.

The 39-year-old Nottingham woman was battling with alcohol and other health problems - and weighed 20 stone (127kg).

But a few months later, the 8st 5lb (53kg) fitness fanatic is preparing for a half-marathon and extolling the virtues of aromatherapy and acupuncture.

Penny says her astonishing recovery is down to friends at a Nottingham alcohol abuse centre and she is running in tribute to them.

"I am determined to run the half-marathon and raise money for the day unit that saved my life and for the people that I love," she said.

"To feel the affection I have for the staff there is incredible for me - I can't believe I am running this marathon," the BBC subtitler said.

Vodka overdose

Penny, who plans to run the Experian Robin Hood Half Marathon on 12 September in Nottingham said: "I am running eight to 10 miles every other day and I go swimming and work out with weights the other days."

Penny's problems started more than six years ago when her insomnia and migraines started to take control of her life.

"After a while, I got so worn down that I started to suffer from depression.

Everybody thought I was going to die - all my internal organs were shot
Penny Bunn

"I got more and more tired and worn down and then things got really got really desperate so I got hold of 12 bottles of vodka and drank the lot in three days.

She was admitted to a drying-out centre at Sneinton Hermitage, but after being discharged a few days later, she ended up in the Queen's Medical Centre with liver failure.

"Everybody thought I was going to die and all my internal organs were shot, " she said.

She spent nine days in hospital, but it was the care she received at the Porchester Day Centre after her discharge that made the difference.

"They dragged me back from the edge; by the time I got there I didn't want to live."

The clinic decided that Penny's weight problem was due to water retention caused by her medication.

She was put on tablets for that condition and lost 11 stone (70kg) in a matter of months.

"One of the side effects of the anti-depressants I was on is anxiety - and I was allergic to them.

"It gave me very severe anxiety and made my depression and insomnia worse... and triggered symptoms of other illnesses."

Great strides

Richard Gray, who worked with Penny at Porchester Day Unit, said: "She has taken great strides and has made incredible improvements over the time I have known her.

"She has turned her life around."

Water retention
ME or chronic fatigue

He says the money Penny raises will probably be used to buy camping or gardening equipment, but the people who use the centre will help decide.

"We don't normally get people fund-raising for us as we are not very high profile.

"We deal with people who have problems they don't want discussed - and it is seen in a negative way by a lot of people."

Tony Bunn, her ex-husband, said: "It is amazing when you think that she only had months to live at one point.

"She has really made a fantastic recovery; it is hard to believe she is going to run in the half-marathon."

Penny says her work colleagues are delighted at her recovery: "The comment I hear most often is, 'We have got our old Pen back'."

Alcohol nurses 'saved my life'
04 Nov 03  |  Nottinghamshire
Firefighters start Robin Hood marathon
14 Sep 03  |  Nottinghamshire
Marathon man keeps on runnin'
01 Oct 01  |  England
Robin Hood Marathon - In Pictures
14 Sep 03  |  Photo Gallery

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