A West-Australian bodybuilder mom died on June 19 after an overdose of proteins and supplements, according to her family. Later, doctors declared she did not just died because of the excess of supplements, but also due to a rare disorder she had.
Meegan Hefford was firstly found unconscious at her apartment. Immediately, her family took her to the hospital, where she was declared brain-dead. The mother of two finally passed away two days later.
Hefford, who had been competing in bodybuilding since 2014, was not just a 25-year-old mom, she was also a gym trainer and a paramedic trainee. She had herself submitted under a hard routine of exercises and a rough, full of proteins diet for a competition in September.
Meegan Hefford couldn’t release protein properly
After she died, doctors firstly listed her death due to an “intake of bodybuilding supplements.” But then, they realized the cause of death was not only her strict diet but for urea cycle disorder (UCD), a rare disease she totally dismissed. The mother lived 25 years without knowing she suffered from an illness that didn’t let her body eject protein properly. It was too late when doctors found out the reason.
Doctors thought it was her heavy protein-based diet that might have caused a rapid buildup of ammonia in her bloodstream, as well as an accumulation of fluid in her brain. High levels of protein intake, the NUCDF says, can end in excessive ammonia for those suffering from UCD, leading to neurological disorders and even coma and death.
According to her mother, Michelle White, there were moments when her daughter didn’t feel well. Hefford used to complain about feeling “lethargic and weird,” but she didn’t stop training.
“I said to her: ‘I think you’re doing too much at the gym, calm down, slow it down,'” White recalled. “I couldn’t believe what the doctors were telling me, she was dying. I said, ‘You have to give her more time,’ because she didn’t look sick, she looked beautiful.”
About 1 of 8,500 children who suffer from UCD
This kind of disorder can lead to fatal levels of ammonia in the bloodstream and excessive fluid on the brain. It is usually found in newborn children, about 1 in 8,500, but when doctors don’t realize the child has the disorder, they as adults tend to live along with it because it doesn’t usually affect too much of the body’s functions.
It is caused by a mutation that results in a deficiency of one of the six enzymes in the urea cycle, according to the National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation. Symptoms include dizziness, slurred speech, disorientation, rare and extreme agitation, stroke-like symptoms, lethargy, and delirium.
Usually, people training for bodybuilding competition submit themselves into protein-based diets and follow strict routines of exercises. This doesn’t represent a significant risk when taking the appropriate measures; it’s only for people physically healthy. It is not recommendable for other who have this kind of disorder that affects their blood or their nutrition.