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Woman Contracts Rare Autoimmune Disease From Touching Stray Cat: 'I'll Have It for Life'

– www.health.com

Even after contracting a life-altering syndrome from a feral cat she befriended on vacation, Gemma Birch still considers herself an animal lover.

The 25-year-old from Southport, England, was spending a week in Albufeira, Portugal, in June 2015 when she took in a “gorgeous” stray cat who would lounge on the patio of the rental apartment, Birch recalls to PEOPLE.

Immediately smitten, Birch began giving the animal milk from a bowl and letting her inside.

RELATED: Virginia Woman, 22, Diagnosed with Rare Illness That Has Left Her Paralyzed, Stranded in Thailand

“She obviously loved me, and she’d follow me everywhere,” says Birch, who runs a lifestyle blog and works in a gym. “I was fine all week. I was so sad to leave her.”

But on the last night, she started vomiting severely and suffering from diarrhea. On the plane ride home, on top of her existing symptoms, Birch started to feel faint.

By the time she landed, her stomach was so swollen she looked “nine months pregnant,” she says. “Like I was about to burst.”

She made it home, where her father immediately told her she needed to go to the hospital because she was so weak and pale, Birch recalls.

After spending a week in the ICU and undergoing many tests, doctors discovered Birch had been infected with campylobacter, a common cause of food poisoning.

RELATED: This NFL Player Was Diagnosed With Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Here's What That Means 

RELATED: Woman Dies from Rabies After She Was Misdiagnosed With Panic Attacks

Doctors asked if she’d eaten any uncooked poultry. A staunch vegetarian, Birch said no. Then they asked if she had come into contact with any animals recently, and she remembered her feline friend.

Next came more tests, which helped the medical team discover that she had contracted the infection from a living animal.

“Once they found out, they weren’t worried. They said I’d get better at home with bedrest,” Birch recalls. “But I got worse. I couldn’t walk. I kept falling and losing my balance.”

Her symptoms, inconsistent food poisoning, led Birch to make repeated appointments with her general practitioner, who kept telling her to just get more rest.

“Eventually I stopped going because I felt like I was bugging them,” Birch says. “But you just know when it’s something else.”

Then, two weeks after leaving the hospital — three weeks after returning from Portugal — Birch woke up around 3 a.m. because she’d fallen out of bed.

“I couldn’t feel my legs on the sheets or my feet on the carpet,” she explains. “I started scratching my legs so hard that they bled, but I still couldn’t feel it. I screamed for my dad, and he took me to the hospital.”

In the emergency room, Birch says she googled her symptoms and the campylobacter bacteria, which turned up three words: Guillain-Barré syndrome…

15 Transformations That'll Inspire You to Start Lifting Weights

– health.com

15 Transformations That'll Inspire You to Start Lifting Weights

 

Stacey D.

PHOTO: @BOOMFAMF INSTAGRAM

In two years, Stacey went from CrossFit obsessed (left) to entering into the world of powerlifting and counting macros (right). She lost 15 pounds and about 5 percent body fat, but not overnight. "Understanding that this whole fitness thing is a lifelong journey really helps me understand that there's ups, downs, weekends of eating it all, weeks of consistency, fat days, 'damn who dat' when you look in the mirror days, and overall a lot of learning and self-encouragement, forgiveness and love," she wrote.

Katie Crewe

PHOTO: @KATIECREWE INSTAGRAM

The now-trainer and Insta star used to find weights intimidating so she stuck to cardio classes. But once she picked up a dumbbell, she realized the body she wanted couldn't be achieved with light lifting. "My 'gains' came very slowly, compared to many. It took me a really long time to start doing full push-ups (especially darn triceps ones)," she writes. This photo—and Katie's story—are proof that if you can get past intimidation and frustrations, hard work will pay off eventually.

RELATED: 10 Things I Learned During My Body Transformation

Kathryn Nash

PHOTO: @MINIBUTMIGHTY_ INSTAGRAM

Kathryn Nash started reaching for dumbbells as finishers for her BBG workouts, but pretty soon, the weights became her favorite part of the workout. After ditching HIIT to go all in with lifting, it took almost a year for Kathryn to build up her backside. "This took me a solid year of bulking to build the muscle I currently have. Don't be afraid to lift heavy and EAT, ladies!!! You can't grow if you neglect either of them. Muscle growth takes time and a whole lot of patience, but it is so worth it. Gainz are nice and all, but nothing beats the adrenaline rush you get from lifting heavy a$$ iron," she says.

Abby Pollock

PHOTO: @AMPOLLO INSTAGRAM

Over the past four years, the Canadian fitfluencer has built her booty with a mix of heavy lifting four times a week and strategic cardio. "A structured weightlifting routine that has you progressively doing 'more' over time will deliver the best and most predictable results," she writes. 

RELATED: The 17 Best Butt Workouts from Kelsey Wells, Jeanette Jenkins and More Fitness Stars

Sia Cooper

PHOTO: @DIARYOFAFITMOMMYOFFICIAL INSTAGRAM

Sia switched up her workouts after the birth of her first baby. "My tummy was soft, my thighs were blown, and I just simply didn't feel like ME anymore. Most of all, I didn't think I could ever get my 'body back,'" she writes. So instead, she decided to build a new one. "I began doing something that I had never done before: lift weights!" she adds. The results? Well, that second photo after baby number two speaks for itself.

Mikaela Beauchamp

PHOTO: @MIKAELAFAE INSTAGRAM

For Mikaela, the benefits of weightlifting are more than just physical…

Fitbit Is Having a HUGE Valentine's Day Sale on Some of Their Most Popular Trackers

– health.com

In the market for a new Fitbit (or have someone you still need to find a Valentine's Day gift for)? You're in luck: The brand is slashing prices on some of their most popular trackers. From now until February 16, three Fitbit trackers are up to $40 off on Fitbit.com and Amazon.com. New Year's resolution to get more steps—check!

To buy: from $129, fitbit.com and amazon.com

• Fitbit Charge 3 ($129-$149; fitbit.com and amazon.com). With a touchscreen, smartphone notifications, and seven days of battery life, this remains one of Fitbit's most popular trackers, if not its most high-tech—and the current sale makes it a lot more affordable. In addition to a discount on the classic black and blue gray colorways, you can also save $20 on the slightly more expensive special edition hues.

• Fitbit Versa ($169-$199; fitbit.com and amazon.com). The Versa is an incredible fitness tool for people who want a watch to help them through their toughest sweat sessions. You'll get 24/7 heart rate monitoring, personalized onscreen workouts, and four days of battery life. Also good: The ability to stream more than 300 songs right from your wrist.

• Fitbit Ionic with GPS ($230; fitbit.com and amazon.com). The seriously high-tech Fitbit Ionic is the most heavily discounted tracker on this list at $40 off of its original retail price. It boasts a ton of impressive features, including dynamic personal coaching, continuous heart rate monitoring, multiple sport modes, and a water-resistant material that lets you swim in it up to 50 meters. All with a built-in GPS so you can track your distance covered and route maps.

RELATED: The Best Valentine's Day Gifts for Men on Amazon

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Woman Contracts Rare Autoimmune Disease From Touching Stray Cat: 'I'll Have It for Life'www.health.com
15 Transformations That'll Inspire You to Start Lifting Weightshealth.com
Fitbit Is Having a HUGE Valentine's Day Sale on Some of Their Most Popular Trackershealth.com

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