Road to recovery

NANAIMO - Senior relies on gym equipment to battle back from serious health issue.

Don Varney enjoys the gym and facilities at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre. He used the equipment to aid in recovering from a health issue that led to medical personnel putting him in a coma for more than two months.

Don Varney enjoys the gym and facilities at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre. He used the equipment to aid in recovering from a health issue that led to medical personnel putting him in a coma for more than two months.

Don Varney never thought going to the hospital for knee replacement surgery would lead to him spending more than two months in a coma.

After surgery, he contacted an antibiotic resistant bacteria and went into septic shock. His liver began to shut down and one of his lungs collapsed.

He was sent to the intensive care unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria where they induced a coma. During that time, he was also placed on kidney dialysis for a month.

“I was pretty desperate. I don’t remember much of it,” said Varney.

When he returned home he tried to get back in shape. Always an active individual, Varney was a physical education teacher early in his career, later taught math and was school counsellor. He was also involved in Nanaimo’s basketball scene for a number of years.

“I’ve always been concerned about fitness,” he said.

Varney started with cardio exercises on an elliptical trainer, and at first could only manage 90-second spurts.

However, he didn’t let that deter him.

“I kept working away on it,” he said. “You stop trying, you start dying.”

Varney said his daughter inspires him to continue working and striving for improved fitness.

She was diagnosed with leukemia and has fought the disease for the past 11 years.

“She is a gem,” he said. “She’s so upbeat. She never complains. I could never feel sorry for myself.”

Varney, 76, said he continues to carry on with his exercise routine. The senior enjoys to exercise at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre because the city facility offers flexibility with year-long, monthly or drop-in passes.

He also loves having the convenience of a number of amenities in one place. He often works out in the centre’s weight room and then heads to the hot tub and steam room.

The weight room has a variety of machines to meet people’s workout routines. Attendants work select hours during the day and can answer questions on how to use certain pieces of equipment or how to attempt new exercises.

The weight room is open seven days a week at varying hours.

People looking to ramp up their fitness routines can also meet with one of the centre’s personal trainers and purchase a personal workout package.

The trainers help develop programs to meet individual fitness goals and level of ability. There are also various weight room courses people can sign up for throughout the year. The courses are advertised in the city’s parks, recreation and culture activity guide.

For more information about parks, recreation and culture programs, please go to or check out the latest edition of the leisure guide.

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