Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Fitness over 50 is a gift that keeps on giving.
When you exercise regularly, eat well, and maintain a healthy weight, you're taking care of more people than yourself. You're also showing love to your family and friends, of course.
And, as Beverly Williams-Hawkins shows, the gift can go to complete strangers, as well.
That's Beverly above -- at her heaviest and in competition form.
First, an Injury; Then, Weight Gain
Beverly, now 66, is a retired psychiatric nurse who recently moved to Port Townsend, Washington, from Texas. She’d always been fit and enjoyed running and weightlifting, even winning her first bodybuilding competition at age 56.
But then Beverly fell while carrying a rug and suffered a massive hip injury.
“I couldn’t do much,” she says. “It was three years of constant pain. I pretty much cried the nights away. I thought I would never run again. I thought I would never lift weights again. I thought I would never dance again.”
Pain medication helped somewhat, but it sent her appetite soaring. Beverly gained 70 pounds on her 5’6” frame, up from 125 when she competed in that bodybuilding show.
It took a long time, but Beverly finally got off the pain medication and worked herself back into shape. She recently ran in a 10K race.
“I’ve lost a ton of weight,” she says. “I’m back to normal. I feel really good.”
She thrives on the strength and confidence that weightlifting gives her. And it’s crucial to remain functionally fit for everyday chores and activities.
“I like being strong,” she says. “When I’m driving, I like being able to look over my shoulder to see what’s coming. I like being able to walk up and down the stairs.”
Next, Helping Out in a Big Way
Beverly is so grateful for the gift of healthy living that she wants to give it to others, as well.
She recently made an extraordinary gesture to help someone else. Beverly donated one of her kidneys to save a man’s life and to free him from the confines of dialysis treatment.
“My first job out of nursing school was in a kidney transplant unit,” she explains.
After the surgery, Beverly reports she and the recipient are doing well. “The hope is that a properly functioning kidney will help to stabilize his blood pressure and relieve his pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs). His family was very gracious and thanked me many times for giving him another go at life and improved health.”
In the United States alone, about 100,000 people are awaiting kidney transplants, the National Kidney Foundation says. Every 14 minutes, someone is added to the transplant list. And every day, 13 people die waiting.
Being in good shape helps potential living donors.
“When you’re fit, your heart is working well and pumping blood throughout your body,” Beverly says. “It gets the oxygen to the area that needs to heal.”
And Now, Still Moving Forward
After recuperating, Beverly has no plans to slow down.
Post-surgery, her doctor assures her she can “absolutely” participate in a half-marathon on the day before her 67th birthday in September.
“I probably will walk a lot, but that’s OK,” she says. “I’ll get it done.”
And then she has another special goal for 2020: Participating in track and field events at the Transplant Games of America.
> Learn more about kidney health and transplants at the National Kidney Foundation.