Michelle thought her daughter Meegan's new obsession was healthy.
Here, Michelle White, 50, tells the story in her own words.
W￼atching my daughter, I smiled while she showed off her gym-honed body.
Meegan, then 25, beamed with pride as she flexed her shoulders and chatted about her workout plan.
Being a mum of two young children, she didn’t have much time to herself. But my bubbly, gorgeous daughter had finally found a passion - exercise.
Meegan was only 18 when she fell pregnant with her first bub.
‘Mum, I’m going to have a baby,’ she said, nervously.
It took a while to sink in, but eventually I became excited at the thought of my grandchild. Having had babies quite young myself, I offered my daughter some comfort.
‘When your kids grow up, you’ll still be young and have so much life left to live,’ I told her.
When her girl came along, Meegan was a devoted mum. And living close by, I was always there to help when things got tough.
After she got into the swing of motherhood, Meegan started to hit the gym and became a real fitness fanatic. She spent so much time in her active wear, at least I always knew what to buy her for Christmas and birthdays!
I even tagged along with her to the gym to see her in action.
‘Wow, I could never do that!’ I told her, amazed at her weight-lifting. It was great to see my girl so passionate. Bafter she gave birth to her boy, something changed. She became preoccupied with her body image to the point of obsession. If I wasn’t free to look after the kids, Meegan would panic.
‘I have to go to the gym, Mum!’ she pleaded. ‘Darling, you don’t need to. You’re so fit and healthy,’ I said. ‘It’s not the end of the world if you skip one session.’ But to Meegan it was.
My girl wasn’t happy unless she could fit in two hours of training every day.
Getting into body building competitions, she also became conscious of everything she ate, often replacing meals with protein shakes. After downing one, she’d shake like a leaf.
Meegan’s behaviour alarmed me so much, I knew I had to say something.‘I’m getting concerned the gym is becoming too much,’ I told her gently.
But she was determined. I watched on helplessly as she gulped down protein shakes and took body building supplements.
Her meals were always the same: chicken, red meat and egg whites Sometimes with steamed vegies on the side, and always a protein shake to wash it all down.
But slim and toned, she looked healthier than ever, so I stopped my nagging.
Then one weekend in June last year, I was preparing to go on a camping trip.
With her kids, now seven and five, living with their dad, Meegan was going to have the weekend to herself.
‘Mum, I’m feeling weird. I feel really tired all the time,’ she complained before I left. ‘You’re working yourself too hard,’ I said. ‘You’re burning the candle at both ends. Go to the doctor.’
Leaving for my trip I felt excited, but I couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling that Meegan wasn’t herself.
On Monday morning my phone buzzed with a number I didn’t recognise. There was a paramedic on the other end. ‘Your daughter Meegan was found unconscious,’ he told me.
By chance, two women doing a rental inspection had found her unresponsive on the floor of her bedroom.
Shocked, I rushed to the hospital with my son, Jesse, 29, to see my usually healthy and fit girl unconscious.
She’s tough, she’ll get through it, I told myself, not letting the panic set in. I assumed she’d just worked herself too hard.
But two days later, the doctor delivered some shocking news. ‘Meegan has limited brain activity,’ he explained. I didn’t really understand how serious that was. ‘Give it time,’ I said. ‘She’s a fighter.’ She didn’t look sick, she looked her normal, beautiful self.
But the very next day, my lovely Meegan was officially pronounced brain dead.
Unbeknown to everyone, Meegan suffered from Urea Cycle Disorder, which meant the protein caused a build-up of ammonia in her blood. The ammonia had reached her brain, causing irreversible brain damage. It was a silent killer, and the endless protein shakes and dangerous dieting were Meegan’s downfall. We had no idea her obsession with health would end up killing her.
A few days later, we said goodbye and made the decision to donate her organs.
In the end, my daughter’s tragic death saved four lives. After Meegan died, I found a diet plan in her car drawn up by a personal trainer. It was packed with protein. I want the health industry to enforce regulations on the sale of protein powder and supplements.
Only certified nutritionists should offer advice on dieting and I urge people to get medical checks before drastically changing their food intake. It’s too late for Meegan, but I hope by sharing her story she can save another family from this pain.
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