Happy Monday all! Do you like the facelift my blog got?! Today’s post is getting a little bit personal to educate people about the dangers of extremely intense workouts so please bear with me for this long post. Short version of the story: exactly two years ago today, I took a spin class. A few days later I was taken to the ER and admitted to the hospital to get treatment to ensure my kidney’s didn’t fail…
Let me back up and start from the beginning for you:
The Spin Class:
September 18, 2015: I was in LA searching for a job and my blogger friend Erin, from Style By The People, was shocked that I had never taken a SoulCycle class before. She convinced me I would love it (I had done other spin classes before but never a Soul class) so I signed up for the bike next to her for a 10 am class. I got on the bike and was excited to experience all the hype behind a Soul class.
The class started and I was really into it. The music was good, the instructor was good, the energy in the room was good! I knew I was not in the best shape because I had been slacking on my workouts but I did my best to keep up with the rest of the class. About halfway through the class my legs felt wobbly and doing the standup parts on the bike were really hard. I thought it was because I was out of shape and the instructor kept saying “push yourself harder, come one everyone keep up!” So I did exactly that, I pushed myself to get through the workout – that was my mistake.
The second I got off the bike I should have known that something was wrong. My left leg would not support my body weight at all. I looked at Erin and said “I think I did something funny to my leg” and Had to hold on to every bike I passed to walk out of the room. I really though I just twisted my leg funny while getting off the bike and tried to not think about it. Erin drove me back to Matt’s apartment and I tried to stretch out some more thinking my muscles were just too tight.
The Symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis:
1. Extreme Muscle Soreness: As the day went on the soreness started to kick in. I found it odd that I was getting sore so quickly. Normally it would take at least a day or two for me to really feel the soreness in my muscles. I again chalked it up to me being out of shape and doing an intense workout like a spin class.
By the next morning I was in excruciating pain. Moving any muscle in my body was painful. I dreaded just having to go to the bathroom because sitting down on the toilet and getting back up made me want to cry. My mom and boyfriend both told me that I was just being a baby because I have a low pain tolerance (they later apologized for making those statements since they were wrong). I half believed them that I was just being a baby and tried to fight through the pain.
The pain was still there days later and just as bad as before. I tried using a roller to roll out my muscles, stretch, take pain meds to help with the pain and reduce any inflammation, but nothing worked.
2. Muscle Weakness. I had my final round interview at my now place of work and the only interview shoes I brought with me were heels. I tried to put them on in my apartment and literally toppled over. My legs could not hold me up in the heels at all. As someone who can wear 5-6 inch heels and walk around with no problem for most of the day, this was not normal for me at all.
I spent my drive to the interview crying to my mom on the phone about how I didn’t know how I was going to walk into the interview. Luckily I passed a payless shoe store as I got close to the office building and quickly ran in to find a cheap pair of ballet flats to interview in. I was wearing my workout sneakers with my interview look because I could not walk in heels. My muscles were too weak to hold me.
2. Dark Urine. Okay this is totally about to be TMI but whenever I would pee, it would be a brownish red color. Now I just thought this was just because I was on my period (yes again TMI) so I didn’t think anything of it. But if your urine is dark you need to get yourself to the hospital ASAP. This is a huge red flag that something is wrong with your kidneys. The only reason I went to the hospital is because my Aunt (who we have nicknamed Meredith Grey because she weirdly knows so much about medical problems) asked me if I had this symptom and to send her a picture of my pee (thanks Fam!).
She told me she just had read an article about an athlete who had the same symptoms as me and that I needed to be calm and get myself to the emergency room as quickly as I could because she thought I had something called Rhabdomylosis. Naturally I had a mini freak out, called Matt at work to tell him I needed him to leave to take me to the ER (he had an extremely important meeting that couldn’t be moved so he couldn’t) and proceeded to get myself to the hospital.
Being Admitted To The Hospital For Rhabdomylosis:
So there I was, across the country from my mom, my boyfriend was about to be unavailable, and being told to get my butt to an ER and not pack for my flight home that afternoon to check to see if I was ok. I called an Uber and he drove me to the entrance of the ER in Santa Monica. He made small talk and asked who I was visiting in the ER and was shocked to find out that I was in fact going to the ER to check in for myself.
I filled out all the paperwork, met with a nurse and waiting in the lobby for my name to be called. When I was taken back and put on an ER bed they asked me about my symptoms. They told me they believed I probably had Rhabdomylosis but they needed to take some blood to be sure. What happened after they took my blood and got the results back feels like a whirlwind.
Both a doctor and a nurse came in to talk to me (bad sign number one), the doctor than told me to cancel my flight because I would not be leaving the hospital any time soon (bad sign number two), and as the doctor was talking to me I could see the nurse bringing in TWO IV bags and stands and two other machines that I didn’t know what they were, as well as a heart monitor (bad sign number three). But nothing could prepare me for the words that came out of the doctors mouth next: “We have to make sure your kidneys don’t fail on you“.
I’m pretty sure not only did my jaw drop but my heart sank at the same time. KIDNEY FAILURE?! Are you kidding me?! All I did was take a workout class, what do you mean I could go into kidney failure?!
Right after the doctor told me this, he kept talking while the nurse but an IV in both of my arms and turned on the other machines that turned out to be machines that force the IV fluid to go into your system at a much faster rate than a normal drip. And then the nurse attached the heart monitor to me. To say I was freaking out would kind of be an understatement! I don’t know how I got the words out to explain to my mom and then to explain to Matt what was happening to me. I will never forget Matt’s face when he walked into the ER and saw me hooked up to all these machines and with all these wires attached to me.
What is Rhabdomylosis and What is The Treatment:
So what is Rhabdomylosis (also called Rhabdo for short)? When you overexert your muscles, the skeletal muscles in your body break off and die. They then float around your blood stream and try to exit your body like everything else does – through your urine. However, the fibers that break off when parts of your muscles die are toxic to your body and your kidney’s can’t flush them out of the body on their own. My CPK levels were through the roof which is what caused the major concern for my kidneys to the doctors.
When this happens it can cause permanent damage to your kidneys and even kidney failure. When I was told my CPK numbers were about 150,000 and normal is about 22… I didn’t think my odds were very good for there being no damage to my kidneys. The doctor told me they didn’t see any damage when they took my blood but I wasn’t out of the woods yet because the numbers could still increase while they were trying to treat me.
So how do they treat Rhabdo? There are no antibiotics that you can take for this – which is part of the reason why I had to be admitted to the hospital. The only treatment is to force fluids throughout your system to force the toxins to be flushed out of your kidneys. For the first 3 days I was in the hospital I had two IV’s forcing fluids into me. I don’t think I’ve ever peed so much and so often in my life haha. I would get my blood taken every day at least once a day to check on my CPK levels and they even measured how much I was peeing and what the color was every time I went to the bathroom.
The process is a slow one. My numbers did not decrease very much between the first and second day. I don’t know who got less sleep that night in the hospital, me or Matt. Any time my heart monitor would make a sound or he thought one of my IV bags was about to be empty he would ask me if I was okay, if I needed the nurse, if I wanted him to go get the nurse to let her know about the IV bag. It was so sweet to see how worried he was about me!
After 4 days in the hospital they finally told me I was being released. My numbers weren’t back to normal yet but they were low enough that they told me I could self-hydrate without an IV bag in order to get my numbers to where they needed to be. I had to go to my normal internist every few days to get my blood checked to make sure my numbers were still going down. Luckily they went down and I’m happy to report I have no permanent damage to my kidneys!
What I did learn from all of this that Rhabdo is very serious and scary. It can happen to anyone! You can get it whether your an olympic athlete, an avid gym rat, or someone who doesn’t work out all the time. The common workouts that cause it are spin classes and crossfit workouts. Ever since this happened to me I have been terrified to work out and get back in shape under fear this would happen again. The doctors assured me I could and I recently have slowly but surely started to get back in it. My goal with this post is to educate you about Rhadbo because it has become more and more common and I think it’s important to know the symptoms in order to seek treatment earlier than I did!
Have a great rest of your week!