Many teenagers seeking to get out of their PE lessons say they are ‘allergic to exercise’, but for one young woman it is actually true.
Tasha Coates, 19, was struck down with a series of life-threatening allergic reactions called anaphylactic shocks beginning in May 2013.
She suffered from a mystery illness that caused her to lose her hair and be rushed to hospital more than 30 times in 12 months.
Doctors were baffled as to what was causing her reactions, but eventually found she has a rare condition which means getting hot and sweaty can trigger an allergic reaction.
While some with this diagnosis would head straight for this sofa, Miss Coates, who has had gymnastic lessons from the age of eight, has found a way of exercising safely and has won a raft of medals and the overall national trophy.
She has battled through her illness to win five gold medals and became the champion of British Disability Gymnastics.
Miss Coates, who lives in Warrington, Cheshire, said: ‘I fell ill when I was 18-years-old after 10 years of doing gymnastics.
‘I was allergic to everything and people would hug me and come away with clumps of my hair when it started falling out.
‘I would be sat in college doing my work and 10 seconds later I wouldn’t be able to breathe – I didn’t know what was triggering it.’
‘I had never heard of disabled gymnastics and wanted to keep on doing the sport so I sent in an application.
‘There are different rules to make competitions safer for disabled people so it’s about having fun rather than the serious competitiveness of mainstream gymnastics.’
After Miss Coates had finally been diagnosed with a rare condition which affects her mast cells, which protect against disease and are involved in wound healing.
Doctors believe when she gets hot and sweaty, this causes degranulation of her mast cells, which sends her into anaphylactic shock as her body releases too many histamines.
Histamines are released when the body detects that foreign matter has entered into it. The histamines signal the body to send blood to the affected area, which causes swelling and inflammation.
But for Miss Coates, the histamine response is triggered by her mast cells’ abnormal response to getting hot and sweaty.
It continues unabated, causing her body tissues to swell up, her blood vessels to become constricted and the tubes in her lungs to become inflamed and constricted, causing her to have difficulty breathing.
It began in May last year, when she was out with her friends but began to feel unwell.
The next thing she remembers is waking up in the resuscitation department at Royal Liverpool University Hospital.
She suffered eight anaphylactic shocks in two weeks, which caused clumps of her hair to fall out in the shower before it all fell out completely.
Doctors were baffled as to what was causing Miss Coates’ anaphylactic shock, but eventually they found she has a rare condition which affects her mast cells – which protect the body against disease. If she gets too hot or sweaty, they release histamines, which cause an allergic reaction. She is pictured, left and right, in hospital.
Miss Coates was also diagnosed with a catalogue of allergies including asthma, oral allergy syndrome, which makes her body think she is ingesting pollen when she eats raw vegetables, as well as eczema, hay fever and Raynaud’s syndrome. But she is able to compete in competitions safely (pictured) if she doesn’t exert herself
Miss Coates said: ‘My body went into shock and my hair fell out as a result.
‘But before I lost it all I went to get some of my hair braided so that it could be used by somebody who has cancer, then I shaved my head until it became even all over.’
Doctors finally diagnosed Miss Coates as having catalogue of allergies which leave her, in her own words, ‘allergic to life’.
On top of the rare condition that affects her mast cells, she has asthma, oral allergy syndrome, which makes her body think she is ingesting pollen when she eats raw vegetables, as well as eczema, hay fever and Raynaud’s syndrome.
But the allergies are not going to stop Tasha from continuing as a top flight disabled gymnast.
Her classes are controlled so she doesn’t exert herself and is able to practice the sport safely.
Miss Coates has been invited to perform in front of 11,000 spectators at the Artistic Gymnastics British Championships in Liverpool in March. ‘It still doesn’t feel real and I never dreamed I could be a national champion,’ she said
Her medal-winning achievement has caught the attention of mainstream gymnastics officials.
She has been invited to perform in front of 11,000 spectators at the Artistic Gymnastics British Championships in Liverpool in March.
The A-level student, who studies health and social care and child development at Priestley College in Cheshire, said: ‘I want to get more people involved in disabled gymnastics, that would make me happy.
‘It still doesn’t feel real and I never dreamed I could be a national champion.
‘I haven’t really been to the gym much lately but hopefully I will be fit enough for the event in March.’