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Young mum ‘looked like Popeye’ after workout went wrong

A young mum was left “looking like Popeye” after her muscles began to eat themselves following a regular workout.

When Amelia Burns, 30, returned home from her daily workout at the gym she found her arms swelling and turning to jelly and she eventually passed out.


Instead of going down, the swelling continued for the next two days and all her strength drained from her.

In a panicked video she sent to her friend, her arm swelled up to several times its normal size and completely dwarfed her wrist.

She was also unable to lift it above her head.

Amelia, from Sandhurst, was eventually hospitalised and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition which causes muscle tissue to break down and flow into the bloodstream.

After returning home, she was unable to even lift a water bottle or look after her kids Aubrey, six, and Elodie, three.

She has since begun to make a recovery but workouts, particularly like the one that triggered her condition, are completely ruled out.

Amelia, a receptionist, said: “I have never felt so bad in my life. At its worst a water bottle felt like the heaviest thing I have every tried to lift. I just couldn’t do it.

“It was completely terrifying how I lost all my strength and I was completely exhausted. I had absolutely no energy.


“My arms swelled to at least three times their normal size, from my forearm right past my elbow. I looked like Popeye.

“I was having to wear size 20 jumpers just to get them over my arms. I’m normally a size eight.

“I was really worried about my kids because I couldn’t do anything for them. I couldn’t lift my three-year-old up to give her cuddle.

“I have been going to the gym regularly since my second daughter was born three years ago so I’m really fit.

“It’s a complete shock for something like this to happen to me, and I’m now just going to have to start building my fitness slowly all over again.

“But it’s several months down the line now and I still don’t have the energy I used to. It’s a really scary thing.”

It was in September that Amelia went for a regular workout. A Bodycoach graduate, she was using one of the exercises she was taught to work on her tricep muscles.

Lifting weights from behind her head in an exercise known as skull crushers, she repeated the movement with increasingly heavy weights through sets of 50 repetitions down to 10.

For the final 10 reps, she decided to push to the heaviest weight she could.

She felt exhausted leaving the gym but thought nothing of it. It was only when she sat down to dinner later that she realised something was wrong and asked her IT worker husband Lex, 28, to take a look.

Amelia said: “It was not an extraordinary workout. I pushed myself a little harder with the weight at the end, but it was not as thought I was doing it for the first time.


“I felt really drained when I left the gym but that’s nothing unusual after a workout.

“I got home and made tea for my family but when I sat down to eat my elbow felt really squishy.

“I asked my husband to take a look and he said it was swollen. He carried on looking after Aubrey and Elodie as I just got worse and worse.

“Everything happened in really slow motion. I couldn’t lift my arms and blackness started to cloud the edge of my vision. I could see my daughter and husband talking but I couldn’t hear a word they were saying.

“I didn’t want my daughter to see me ill so I told Lex to get her out of the room. I thought I had said it loud and clear, but apparently I only whispered it.

“Eventually I did pass out and Lex had to take me outside to revive me. I went straight to bed thinking I could sleep it off.”

However, over the next couple of days Amelia’s symptoms got worse and her arms continued to swell.

She was sleeping for several hours in the day and Lex became so concerned by her condition that he raced her to hospital.

As she was so fit, doctors took several hours to confirm the diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis, when blood tests revealed her creatine levels were nine times higher than they should have been, risking damage to her internal organs.


Amelia said: “Lex really wasn’t happy with how I looked and how drained I was, so he took me to hospital.

“Because I don’t take supplements and I’m healthy, for a while they weren’t sure what was wrong with me.

“I saw a total of eight doctors and none of them hid their surprise from me. They were all shocked.

“It was scary lying in hospital not knowing what was happening, but when they confirmed the diagnosis I was just as worried as there was a chance my arms would not have gone back down again.”

Amelia is now back home and continuing her recovery from the condition, but still feels more tired than she used to.

She has also been left to slowly build her fitness back up again.

She said: “It can be quite frustrating. I don’t have the energy I used to have.

“I can’t do hard workouts at the moment and I’m not allowed to lift any weights. I have to build that up very slowly.

“But there is no way I’ll be doing skull crushers like that again.”

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