A Cork woman who weighed 305 lbs (21.8 st) at her heaviest has spoken of how she turned her life around after giving birth to her now seven-year-old son Shaye.
At 22 years old, Leah Punch from Mayfield discovered she was pregnant with her son at 26 weeks along on October 16, 2013.
In January, she gave birth to her baby boy by C-section with no complications but said she was tired and sore “like any new mam”.
That week after leaving the hospital, she said she knew that something “just didn’t feel right”.
“I didn't even know how to feel myself, I was deteriorating. I couldn't breathe one minute, was fine the next minute. It was very weird. It was like waves of sickness,” she said.
She went back to CUMH and the next day, a week after giving birth to her baby, she was informed that she would be admitted to ICU.
She said it was “surreal” to be 22 years old after having a baby “which is supposed to be the best time of your life” and couldn't understand why she was being put into intensive care.
She said her lungs were failing and she had septicemia and an infection called pseudomonas after her C-section.
“It was so scary. I thought I was dying at one stage. I’ll never forget it, I remember texting Shaye’s father saying please look after my baby because I thought I was gone. Genuinely. I could feel my life just draining from me, it was the scariest thing ever,” she said.
When she came out of hospital, Shaye was almost one month old, and she said things went from bad to worse as she started to cope by eating.
She said that being almost 22 st was “very hard” and after joining Slimming World each year and signing up for personal training, she knew more needed to be done as she was losing two to three st and needed to lose 10 st to have “any bit of a normal, healthy life”.
On October 16 last year, six years after she found out she was pregnant, she travelled to Lithuania to undergo weight loss surgery which she said was a major decision to make.
“You’re trying to change your life,” she said, but said that it is “not something you just jump on and do”.
“You must put in the work before, you must have tried to lose weight.” Upon returning home, she turned to Instagram for information, but noticed that there were very little people in Ireland documenting such a journey and made the decision to start posting publicly about hers.
Ms Punch is now down nine stone since her surgery, a total of ten and a half stone from her heaviest.
The 28-year-old said that she can’t believe she has done it and said it has been “life changing”.
“If I thought last year where I’d be today, I wouldn't have believed it. I knew I’d get somewhere but I didn't think I’d come this far.
“No one can burst my bubble, even in the middle of a word pandemic, I'm the happiest I've ever been,” she said.
She said that the message she wants people to take away from her story is to “never give up” after turning the lowest point in her life into a positive.
“It's amazing what we can actually do for ourselves when we put our minds to it,” she said.
To continue following Ms Punch's journey, follow @bypassbyleah on Instagram.