Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

The Man Who Almost Cooked His Legs Off

15 Feb 2012I’m sure at once stage in your life, you’ve heard the phrase ‘feel the burn’ in relation to exercise. For Stuart Lines, this term has taken on a whole new meaning.

Stuart, who lives in Queensland, was an avid marathon and triathlon runner, who loved nothing more than the feeling he got from competing against others, and qualifying to make it in to championship races, like Australia’s Ironman competition.

Stuart has competed in many other athletic competitions as well, but was mostly hooked on long distance triathlons, and after qualifying for the 2005 International Triathlon Union World Championships in Honolulu, he dreamt of competing in a much bigger race, the Hawaiian Ironman.

After crossing the finishing line during the International Triathlon Union World Championship, competitors all headed over to the island of Kona, where he first witnessed the Hawaiian Ironman competition. The Hawaiian Ironman is one of the most difficult long distance athletic events in the world, where temperatures reach up to 50 degrees Celsius.

Every year, 20,000 people enter the Hawaiian Ironman competition, only 1,500 get selected, and even less make it all the way to the finish line of the 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride, and 42km run.

To be able to have a chance at competing in the Hawaiian Ironman, Stuart first had to qualify for the Australian Ironman, and began what was set to be gruelling months of training.

One Sunday morning, just 12 weeks into his training, Stuart did a 180km cycle. He felt fine during and shortly after his session, but later that night, he began to take a turn for the worse. He began vomiting from a gastro bug that he’d contracted, and was unable to keep any fluids in.

For the next three days, he was bed ridden, feeling terrible, with the flu, and a temperature. On the Thursday, he was taken to hospital, where the doctors said he was extremely dehydrated, and required intravenous fluids to perk him back up. By the next day, he was suffering from severe lower back pain, which later, was attributed to acute kidney failure, and his upper legs began to swell rapidly, which started spreading to his calves.

By the time he reached hospital, he required pain relief, and his temperature was spiralling out of control, so much so, that his body was being cooked from the inside. Doctors diagnosed him with Rhabdomyolysis, which, put in simple terms, is where the muscles break down, and as they dissipate into the body, they poison the kidneys, shutting them down.

Doctors waited to see if Stuarts upper thighs would reduce swelling on their own, but when they didn’t, they had to slice them open, lengthways, where they remained open for a further two weeks. Stuart was placed into a drug induced coma for nine days.

On several occasions the doctors thought Stuart was going to die, but he wouldn’t give up. During his 40 days in hospital, 23 of those spent in the Intensive Care Unit of a Brisbane hospital, he was on dialysis for his kidneys and received 23 blood transfusions, he contracted pneumonia, then, when he was finally having his ventilator tubes removed, so he could breathe on his own again, he suffered an embolism. After the swelling subsided, Stuart eventually had his leg wounds stapled closed, and was released from hospital, with a clean bill of health.

Stuart still enjoys being fit and active, but stays away from long distance athletic competitions now, as to avoid going through the same ordeal, which almost killed him. Doctors say that the combination of Stuarts gruelling exercise regime, his gastric bug, and being severely hydrated is what caused his body to begin cooking itself.

They say if you want to avoid this rare, but potentially deadly illness, don’t overexert yourself if you are unwell, or badly dehydrated. And if you are dehydrated, drink plenty of fluids throughout your exercise. One sign of this illness occurring is if your urine is the colour of cola, (but I’m sure this symptom would make most people go straight to the doctor anyway).

Luckily for Stuart, he got to keep his legs, and can still walk, but for others, who aren’t so lucky, have to have their legs amputated, in order to save their life, just like a recreational jogger who is mentioned in the original article, which you can read by clicking this link: http://ucantgiveup.com/doc/StuartLinesIS.pdf

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