Rhabdomyolysis – My Story

2 weeks ago today I did a Crossfit workout and got Rhabdomyolsis, this is my story so far…

I am a healthy 37 year old woman living in Lincolnshire, England and 4 weeks ago I decided I need a change in direction in my fitness training and decided to try Crossfit.  Now I have always been active and in the last year competed in two Miss Galaxy Universe bikini competitions and have recently qualified as a level 3 personal trainer.  I would like to think that I am pretty fit, eat well and know enough about my body not to hurt myself.  I would also like to say that I do not blame Crossfit.

In the 3 weeks leading up to my illness, I was loving the Crossfit classes.  I was attending regularly around 3 times per week and always came away from the class feeling pretty good.  I did hurt the next day but it usually subsided within a couple of days, and I was used to the feeling of DOMS with all the training I had done previously.  I enjoyed lifting heavy weights and loved the results I got from this type of training.

On the day in question, the workout consisted of the following: 100 dumbbell snatches followed by a 1mile run outside (the weather was hot that evening) then 15 minute of bodyweight push – 40 push ups (2 mins rest), 30 push ups (1 minute rest), 20 push ups.

I scaled the push ups and did them on my knees and I remember my arms feeling like jelly afterwards and having very bruised knees, but I don’t remember anything that alarmed me that something was wrong.

I had my water bottle with me throughout and I topped it up after the run.  I would not have thought that I was dehydrated unless the run in the sun took more out of me that I realised at the time.

The next day, Friday, I didn’t have too much pain in my arms that wasn’t different from normal DOMS.  I remember putting on a cardigan at work and thinking ‘ouch that workout must have been good, my arms are a little stiff and tender’.

Then, at 3am on Saturday morning I woke with my triceps on both arms burning and hurting so much that I couldn’t put them down beside me on the mattress.  I got my phone and googled ‘sore triceps after workout’, I flicked through a couple of articles about kidney problems and something called Rhabdo, dismissed them, tooksome ibuprofen and spent the rest of the night sat up, crying in pain.

Saturday my hubby took me and my son out for Pizza and I had to drink a glass of wine through a straw as I couldn’t lift my arms up to my mouth.  We laughed about it at the time saying how awesome the workout must have been to give me such bad DOMS!

Sunday, the pain was much worse to the point it was making me feel physically sick.  I went for a 4 mile walk with the family and tried to keep stretching my arms throughout the walk thinking it might loosen them off (I know now that’s the worse thing I could do).

I spend the rest of Sunday with ice packs on both arms, dosed up on Ibuprofen 😦

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Monday morning I woke up for work and remember getting out of bed, touching my arm and thinking ‘OH MY GOODNESS, WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME?!’  My arms were both huge, puffy and swollen.  My right arm a lot worse than the left.  The mobility in both arms seemed a lot better than the day before though…  In a blind panick I googled again and the same pages came up about Rhabdo.  I said to my husband… I might have this…

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My Chubby Right Arm…

According to Wikipedia Rhabdomyolysis is a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly.  Symptoms may include muscle pain, weakness, vomiting and confusion.  There may be tea coloured urine or an irregular heartbeat.  Some of the breakdown products, such as the protein myoglobin are harmful to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure.

I went to my GP at 10am that morning and was told that he thought it was just muscle strain and that I should take painkillers, ice the triceps and rest.  I asked him about Rhabdo and he googled it (standard procedure these days 😉 ) and said he thought it highly unlikely as it is so rare.  He did however get the nurse to take my blood – thank goodness!

I muddled through the rest of my day worried sick that something was wrong and on leaving work at 4.30 my GP called to say to make my way straight to A&E as my CK levels were at 12500 (normal is between 80-400).

In my case the muscle damage was the result of strenuous exercise – push ups.  In short I had damaged the muscle tissue so much that enzymes were leaking out of my muscle, into my blood stream and could potentially cause kidney failure.

On arrival at A&E I had to wait for 5 hours for a bed as they were so short staffed.  I asked if I could go home while I waited as I only live five minutes from the hospital and was told that I was a case of potential renal failure so of course I couldn’t go home.  That’s when I really thought ‘oh shit, this is bad’.

Finally on the ward, I got hooked up to an IV drip.  I remember thinking to myself that a night on the drip should fix it and I should be home the next day….

After a very restless and disturbed sleep with frequent trips to the bathroom, I had my blood tested again on the Tuesday morning.  When I got my results Tuesday evening, my levels had only dropped 170 down to 12330.  The swelling in my arm was now past my elbow and very uncomfortable.

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By Wednesday, on a constant drip, drinking litres and litres of water and visiting the bathroom every 10 minutes my levels dropped to 8000.  Luckily my kidneys had suffered no damage so far and this made me very relieved.  The doctors told me how lucky I had been and if I hadn’t gone to the doctor on the Monday, things would have been very different.

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Feeling sorry for myself 😦

Thursday I had had enough.  I had been through 6 IV bags, not slept due to needing the toilet so frequently (I felt like a human filtration system), and drained from the whole experience.  It hit me like a ton of bricks how serious this could have been.  I felt like pin cushion from the numerous blood tests – they had to take blood from my hands as my arms were so swollen.

Bruised and emotional, I was so happy to hear that my levels had dropped again to 5000 and I could go home on complete rest.

I have just spent the last week watching Netflix, reading books, doing sudokos, drinking loads and loads of water, eating fruit and veg, and have just had my latest result from the doctor that my levels are now ‘normal’.  Exactly 2 weeks after the workout that could have ended my life, I was finally able to move forward.

This is the best news, however it is what’s next that I fear.  Where do I go from here with regards to my fitness?  There is so little information available and no one really know what is best.

I am a very determined person and am going to make it my mission to fix myself.  Over the next few weeks I am going to design my own recovery programme.  I will get my bloods checked regularly with my GP and I will get better!

I am going to document what I am doing and how I feel throughout this recovery to see where this journey leads me.

Sometimes our bodies tell us to press the reset button.  Who would have known that by exercising and thinking that we are doing the best for ourselves that we can put ourselves in so much danger.  I am writing this blog not to say that Crossfit is bad, I would actually one day like to return as I enjoyed it so much.  I just won’t be doing the 90 push ups in 10 minutes again….

Only good can come out of this and I am going to prove that…..