When Zachary Jones was diagnosed with Perthes Disease – a condition affecting the hip joint – at just eight years old, he was warned by doctors that he’d never be able to walk properly again.
He had to give up his favourite sport, spent two years using a wheelchair, and missed months of school, with doctors advising Zachary not to put any weight on his right leg.
But Zachary, now 24, was determined to defy those limits.
Despite agonising pain from his condition, Zachary taught himself how to stand, walk, and run unaided.
Now, he has his dream career as a fitness instructor.
Zachary, from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, said: ‘It was incredibly painful, excruciating in fact. I can’t explain the pain.
‘Doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to walk properly again without suffering a lot of pain, I wouldn’t be able to run, play sport or ride a bike.
‘It was heartbreaking. It was like my future had been taken away.
‘It was such a shock to think I’d never have a fun and active future.
‘I had to sit inside on a cushion playing action figures when I wanted to go out and play.
‘I had to miss a lot of school and at eight I was very sporty.
‘I loved football, I wanted to be a footballer like all kids at that age and was told that would never happen.
‘I was climbing trees and fences and all that had to stop. All that fun was taken away from me.
‘I went into a wheelchair and spent a lot of time indoors.’
Perthes’ disease causes the top of the thighbone in children to lose its blood supply and become misshapen.
It affects one in 9,000 children, and medics don’t clearly understand why it occurs.
After practicing standing every day, Zachary began to see positive results and finally was able to ditch the wheelchair and move onto crutches.
He said: ‘I just knew I had to do something.
‘I’d get told off by my mum for putting pressure on my leg but I had to try.
‘It was excruciating pain and I’d fall over but I’d get back up and try again and kept persevering until eventually I was on crutches instead of the wheelchair.
‘I was on crutches from around 10 to 12.
‘I got pretty quick on my crutches and would speed walk on them, then I went down to just one crutch.’
By the time Zachary had turned 16, his condition had dramatically improved and he began to hit the gym.
Soon he was getting in incredible shape, and had found a passion for fitness.
‘You wouldn’t know that I had a condition at all,’ he said.
‘It was a miracle really – from being told I’d barely be able to walk to competing in school events like running.
‘I can squat now with a 100 kilo weight and I thought I’d never be able to kick a ball.
‘It’s like no one can stop me.
‘100 per cent people would never expect this to have been my career.
‘Because of my disability, I thought I’d never make it within the fitness industry because I was scared I’d be laughed at for being different.’
Doctors believed that Zachary’s only option for recovery would be a total hip replacement, but five months ago he instead chose to have surgery to reshape his hip.
He now shares his story on Instagram to inspire other people to never give up in pursuing their dreams, and to give hope to children who, like him, struggle with an invisible illness.
‘Children won’t believe injuries you can’t see so because I didn’t have any bandages or cuts, I’d get called a faker, I’d get pointed at and it was terrible,’ Zachary said.
‘I used to cry and just think what sort of life is this? I didn’t understand depression then but I think I was depressed.
‘All I want to do now is to help people in a similar situation to improve their bodies like I did.’
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