This post comes to you from inside a hospital.

I turned twenty-six yesterday.

This was not how I foresaw my twenty-six birthday.

As a nurse I’ve come to terms with the fragility of health. When you see a patient die from a fractured hip, or a previously healthy twenty-eight year old women yellow with jaundice, you quickly realise sickness isn’t just for the old.

Most of us, understandably, fool ourselves into the mindset of, ‘That won’t happen to me.’ We watch documentaries of people just like ourselves come down with cancer, people of the same age, gender, socio-economic status, and race, and we still tell ourselves, ‘That won’t happen to me.’ We mentally scan our body for aches and pains, and when we find nothing we relax in the knowledge that we are, at least temporarily, invincible.

And despite my apparent insight into the illusion of health, I was still shocked when three days ago I stood over the toilet and watched as brown urine trickled out from me. I did the right thing and saw a doctor who took samples of my bloods, but I felt confident the results would be minor; that I would be fine.

Because that sort of thing wouldn’t happen to me.

And even when I got a call from the pathology clinic testing my bloods at eleven forty-five on a Sunday night telling me to go to emergency immediately, I still couldn’t shake the notion that it was no big thing. Sure, I’d go to hospital, and maybe they’d keep me for a few hours, but then they’ll send me home telling me to keep my fluids up and to take it easy.

Because that sort of thing wouldn’t happen to me.

This was three days ago and I’m still tucked away in my little corner of the hospital.

Let me back up and tell you how this happened.

A week ago I was talking with my brother who was telling me of an exercise boot camp he had enrolled into. Five weeks, three hours a week, improved fitness at the other end. It sounded good, and I signed on. Thursday afternoon found me grunting and swearing as I worked through push ups, sit ups, pull ups, planking, tyre lifting, squats, and a light jog. The workout was hard, my arms shook, my stomach tightened, and I felt a little sick. But you’re meant to, aren’t you? That’s how you know you’ve pushed yourself.

I wasn’t concerned despite the fact that for the next two days my upper arms and chest ached. I struggled to lift my arms higher than my head, groaned when I had to reposition myself in bed, and trembled when attempting to take off my jumper. I figured this was the repercussions of a very thorough workout.

Consternation came when urine the colour of cola-flavoured cordial streamed from my body. I opened my laptop and typed ‘brown urine, excessive exercise’, into Google, and quickly learnt a new term. Rhabdomyolysis.

Essentially what I had done was damaged the muscle fibres in my arms and chest to the point that the muscle cells died. Upon the destruction of these cells, proteins are released into the bloodstream. This is not where they’re supposed to go. What I was seeing when I looked down into the toilet bowl was the dead matter of my muscles.

The risk of rhabdomyolysis is that the kidneys are not used to filtering these proteins, and one, creatinine, can build up in the kidneys. Potential consequences: decreased urine output, kidney damage, renal failure.

Let me reassure you that at this point it doesn’t look like I will suffer from any of these afflictions. Although, for the record, the specialist told me he had never seen creatinine levels so high. I’m marking this as an accomplishment; you have to take wins where you find them.

So here I am, on the other side of the looking glass. From nurse to patient. From the lands of the invincible healthy to the wards of the acutely sick. From twenty-five to twenty-six.

And they say exercise is good for you.

7 thoughts on “THAT WON’T HAPPEN TO ME

  1. A surreal situation to find yourself in, Jonathan; I hope you are mending slowly and surely.
    And I particularly hope your next birthday is more enjoyable!

  2. Hey Jon. Only just saw this while scanning thru FB. Sorry you had to go thru that – scary. Since we share genes your story has helped me feel justified in having avoided anything that looked like hard work for all these years. I always thought Boot Camp was a holiday resort for shoes….

    • That’s pretty much the silver lining I’m taking away from this experience – no more exercise. Whenever Karen asks me to take out the bins I say I can’t risk rhabdomylosis. It’s working out well so far.
      Resort for shoes…I like it 🙂

      • Natasha Posted on Thank you for sharing your story. I\’m sorry you are in pain, it\’s very very dilfciuft. Try to stay positive and move forward. Peace and blessings, Natasha

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