People of Body&Fit: Kenneth
We’re excited to continue our People of Body&Fit series with this powerful, inspiring and ultimately humbling story of personal trainer, youth worker and Body&fit ambassador, Kenneth. As a fit, healthy and active 20-year-old, Kenneth experienced a cardiac arrest while working out. After 4 days in a coma and months in recovery, he was told to let go of his passion for training. Kenneth refused to accept this as his reality and set out to come back stronger than ever. Five years on, he talked us through how finding the right mindset and surrounding himself with the right people helped him get to where he is today, and what’s next for the man that never gives in.
Finding confidence and purpose through training
All through primary school, Kenneth was bullied for being ‘the skinny kid’ in class. It was a struggle to fit in. When he entered secondary school, a classmate persuaded him to go to the gym and everything started to change.
“I was like, ‘yeah, alright, but I’m probably not going to like it anyway’. I was kind of surprised how good it felt, so I started going more and more. I noticed a difference in my body in such a short amount of time. Other people saw it, too. It made me feel better about myself. At the time, I was insecure and didn’t have a lot of belief in myself.”
After a while, Kenneth started posting his progress on Instagram and soon discovered how much it motivated people. That’s when he realised that fitness could be something he wanted to do professionally. So, he enrolled in a personal training course and got his qualifications. Everything was going great, until 2017 when, during a totally normal training session, Kenneth collapsed in the gym.
The day life changed forever
It happened on a sunny Saturday afternoon, around half an hour before the gym closed. There was hardly anyone around. As Kenneth made his way over to the cardio area, he felt dizzy and dropped unconscious between two machines. A whole five minutes passed before anyone saw him lying there.
“I woke up, confused, looking around. A man in white came to me and was like, ‘do you know where you are?’. I couldn’t talk. I had no idea. He told me I was in the hospital, that I’d had a cardiac arrest and had been in a coma for four days. It was shocking. Hard to deal with. I couldn’t believe how it was even possible. I was healthy, eating good, resting enough… It was weird.”
Luckily, two people in the gym spotted Kenneth, performed CPR and called the emergency services. If he’d been there any longer, he could be suffering from brain damage, or even worse.
Exceeding expectations in the most difficult times
The doctors learned that Kenneth had had a throat infection the year before. There was an abscess on one of his lymph nodes that needed to be cleaned, but it hadn’t been done so well. It gradually spread to his heart, leading to myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart that can reduce its ability to pump and cause fast or irregular beating, known as arrhythmias). Ultimately, it was this that lead to his cardiac arrest one year later.
“I stayed in the hospital for around a month but needed to come back a lot for tests. Six months later, the cardiologist called me in and told me they needed to implant an S-ICD [a device that detects abnormal heartbeats and delivers electrical impulses to ‘shock’ it back to a normal rhythm] to protect me if something like this happened again. They said it would be best to stop working out and find another outlet. Training was my life, my job, the one thing I felt confident about. When he told me that, my heart sank.”
All his life, Kenneth has strived to push himself and exceed expectations. There was no way he was going to let this stop him from doing what he loved, although it wasn’t always easy.
“It took a while for me to trust my body again because mentally this took a heavy toll on me. I’m not someone who likes to talk about my feelings and I’m not someone who takes the initiative to tell people that I’m not alright. But I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help and it’s not a bad thing to show your emotions. I feel like it makes you even stronger.
In the beginning, I’d run for the tram and be like, ‘okay, I’m still here, it’s all good’. Then, I started working out slowly and gradually building up my stamina and strength. Obviously, my parents were frightened, but they always supported me. Now, I don’t really think about it too much. I wear a watch to track my heart rate, but really, I’m confident that if something happens, the S-ICD will put things right.”
Moving on with focus on the future
Today, Kenneth is fitter and stronger than he’s ever been. Aside from being a personal trainer and influencer, he is a youth worker, mentoring kids and helping to keep them off the streets through activities and sports like football and basketball.
“I’ve always had a thing for motivating younger ones to believe in their abilities and overcome their insecurities, because that’s where I’ve been all my life. I think that’s the reason why I love working with young people. Eventually, I would like to have my own gym where I can do my personal training and hold sessions for young people, where they can work out and release tension.”
For Kenneth, the goal has always been to inspire and motivate others. The only thing that changed is his story. It was once about the skinny, insecure kid that packed on muscle and gained belief in himself through training. Now, it’s about overcoming an enormous medical setback, having the courage and determination to start from scratch and continue living life doing what he loves.
You can follow Kenneth’s story via Instagram (@kennyfit_) and look out for more upcoming People of Body&Fit portraits via our blog or social channels (@body&fit_official). It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey, you can find all the advice and motivation you need to achieve your goals with Body&Fit and our inclusive community of go-getters and fit seekers.
In the months after the accident, Kenneth met up with the heroes who saved his life in the gym where it happened. Alongside his family, he presented each of them with a pen engraved with the words ‘bedankt voor het leven’ (‘thank you for my life’). They still get in touch every once in a while.