Lifestyle Health 23-Year-Old Nearly Needed Her Leg Amputated After a Spin Class Left Her with Rhabdomyolysis Doctors had to cut open Kaelyn Franco’s leg to relieve the pressure and swelling that developed from the life-threatening condition, which can occur after intense exercise By Julie Mazziotta Julie Mazziotta Twitter Julie Mazziotta is the Sports Editor at PEOPLE, covering everything from the NFL to tennis to Simone Biles and Tom Brady. She was previously an Associate Editor for the Health vertical for six years, and prior to joining PEOPLE worked at Health Magazine. When not covering professional athletes, Julie spends her time as a (very) amateur athlete, training for marathons, long bike trips and hikes. People Editorial Guidelines Published on November 11, 2021 01:26 PM Share Tweet Pin Email A 23-year-old Massachusetts woman narrowly avoided needing her leg amputated after she developed a life-threatening condition during a spin class. Kaelyn Franco is a longtime athlete who played soccer and softball in high school and continued with athletics in college. In September, a friend recommended that the recent graduate give spin class a try, and she took her first one on Sept. 15. During the 45-minute class, "I was definitely pushing myself for sure, but I don't think I was overworking myself to the point where I was like, okay I really overdid it," Franco told Today.com. But after she got off the bike, "my knees just gave out and I pretty much fell," she continued. "I thought that was strange at first, but then I was like maybe it's just my muscles are tired, weak and just a little bit sore." Franco noticed her legs were swelling and sore the next day and initially thought she was just gaining muscle from the new workout. But as the day went on, she started having trouble walking or bending her legs, and saw that her urine was turning dark brown — all signs of rhabdomyolysis, a life-threatening condition where the muscle tissue breaks down and releases a dangerous protein called creatine kinase into the blood. It can occur after intense workouts. Kaelyn Franco. gofundme What to Know About Rhabdomyolysis, the Potentially Fatal Extreme Exercise Condition "Crying in pain," Franco went to the hospital, she wrote on Instagram, where she learned that the amount of creatine kinase in her blood was unsustainably high — 259,000, when the normal range is around 33-211 units per liter. "Doctors said they hadn't seen such levels before," she said. "I couldn't walk or move and had to be put on a catheter." RELATED VIDEO: Utah Mom Loses Limbs After Developing Rare Complications from Cold and Pneumonia Franco was put on an IV to flush out her blood, but she then developed acute compartment syndrome in her right leg, a condition caused by extreme swelling of muscle tissue or internal bleeding after a severe injury. Doctors scrambled to get her into surgery to cut open the skin and tissues to relieve the pressure on her leg, saving her from amputation. A doctor told Franco that without the surgery, "you could have lost your leg...you could have also lost your life," she told Today.com. Franco is slowly starting to heal, but cannot walk without crutches or drive a car, and is raising money on GoFundMe for her medical bills as she takes time off to recover. "Although my leg will never be the same and I'll have lifelong complications from this, I am lucky and I am so grateful," she wrote on Instagram. "I am alive and my leg was saved." And Franco is warning others to be careful about how far they push themselves during workouts. "I don't want this to take away from my passion of being fit and active, but I want take it as a lesson and change some things going forward," she told Today.com. "I definitely want to be kinder to my body."