A Canadian woman nearly lost her legs due to cut-off circulation after passing out at home following a boozy girls’ night out.
Julia Anderson, 36, collapsed on her bed – kneeling on all fours – after sinking 20 drinks with friends at a bar in Ontario in 2020.
When she woke up her legs had ballooned to double their size and she could not move on her own, needing assistance from her 70-year-old mother Sandra.
Ms Anderson, who is a mother herself, feared she had broken them on the night out. She was diagnosed with compartment syndrome, a rare but deadly condition that occurs when blood does not reach some of the body’s muscles and nerves.
The lack of blood circulation to her legs deprived the limbs of oxygen and other nourishment. Doctors said if they had not acted faster, she may have lost her limbs.
Ms Anderson said she usually weighs around 100lbs, but her swollen legs added another 40 to 50lbs to her small frame
Julia said she was carrying 40lb-50lb of excess fluid in her legs. She was hospitalised for a whopping five weeks where she underwent dialysis, had a blood transfusion and a skin graft op on her leg
‘They weren’t sore, but they were double their usual size so I called out to my mom, who called an ambulance,’ Ms Anderson said.
‘When I got to the hospital my whole body was very swollen. I’m tiny, I’m only 100lbs, to them I just looked like a 140lb girl. I told them “guys I don’t look like this, something is wrong”.’
Acute compartment syndrome occurs when the lining of the body’s nerves and muscle tissue — called fascia — has pressure placed on it by bruising, bleeding or another injury.
Fascia is not elastic and can not expand to allow fluid to pass. As a result, fluid begins to build up.
Ms Anderson’s case erupted in an early morning in 2020 after she went to bed in the prostrate position after a night out.
The woman had gone out with friends with whom she had been ‘drinking vodka all night’ as well as ‘a lot of straight liquor.’
Ms Anderson said: ‘I was in pain constantly. Imagine your leg is falling asleep but that tingling feeling is times a thousand, like a sharp shooting electric shock up my leg.’ Pain from the nerve damage was so severe that she was ‘screaming out in the middle of the night with the pain’
Doctors had to perform a demanding procedure in short order because muscle was deteriorating and releasing toxins into her bloodstream, causing her body to swell up and her kidneys to shut down
She said: ‘We didn’t eat. Pre-drinks and bar drinks combined, it was the equivalent of 20 drinks, so quite a bit.
‘I was drunker than normal. When I got home I just thought, “go to bed Julia” and I passed out curled up on top of my legs face down.’
The pressure on her legs while sleeping halted circulation, and it took only hours for her body to develop compartment syndrome.
An ambulance rushed Ms Anderson to Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, where doctors performed a barrage of tests and diagnosed her.
Ms Anderson said: ‘I was immediately rushed into surgery because my muscle was deteriorating and releasing toxins into my bloodstream causing my body to swell up and my kidneys to shut down.’
Surgeons performed a grueling procedure where Julia’s left leg was sliced open and muscle was cut off to relieve the swelling and reduce the toxins being released into her bloodstream.
She was in intensive care for two weeks strapped to a device to drain excess fluid.
Ms Anderson also needed to be hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine, to take a skin graft from her thigh and administer several blood transfusions.
This is because her hemoglobin levels, proteins in red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body, had dropped dangerously low.
She said: ‘The nerve damage was so bad I was screaming out in the middle of the night with the pain.
‘I was in pain constantly. Imagine your leg is falling asleep but that tingling feeling is times a thousand, like a sharp shooting electric shock up my leg.’
Her stay in the hospital lasted five weeks. She was bedridden for three weeks at home and forced to rely on heavy-duty painkillers for a year.
After being embarrassed for three years by her harrowing experience, Ms Anderson has made her story public in the hope of sparing another person from a similar experience.
She said: ‘At the time I was embarrassed about it, because who wants to be like “I passed out drunk like an idiot”. The shame’s kind of dissipated because it’s been years now, it could happen to anyone.’