A medallist at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was successfully diagnosed and supported by staff at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB).
Melissa Courtney, who won a bronze medal in the 1500m, was diagnosed with an inherited metabolic disorder (IMD) in March 2017.
Melissa, who finished the race in 4:03.44 and beat her personal best by 2 seconds, had twice been admitted to intensive care after collapses at training camps.
She was later diagnosed with an IMD at the Centre for Rare Diseases (CfRD) at UHB, and continues to have check-up appointments twice a year.
Dr Charlotte Dawson, consultant in metabolic medicine at UHB, said: “We were all delighted to see Melissa do so well at the Games.
“Melissa has a mild form of her disorder, and this means that in day-to-day life it’s not really noticeable.
“She became unwell because of the additional metabolic stress to her body when she intensified her training hoping to become a professional athlete for Wales and Team GB.
“People with the IMD that Melissa has can’t break down protein, and as a consequence ammonia builds up which is toxic. We gave Melissa medication to remove the ammonia. Normally we recommend patients with Melissa’s condition also follow a low protein diet, but because Melissa requires an increased protein intake to support her training, the IMD team had to work closely with her performance nutritionist to adjust her medication dose to suit her athlete’s diet.”
Since being diagnosed and treated, Melissa’s training capacity has improved, with the bronze medal a great indication of how she is now thriving on the Athletics track whilst managing her inherited metabolic disorder.
The team supporting Melissa, who also competed in the 5,000m at the Games, discuss her management in conference calls between Dr Dawson, Louise Robertson (a dietitian at UHB) and Felicity Hare, Senior Performance Nutritionist at Sports Wales Institute, Cardiff.
“Having the guidance and support of the IMD team at UHB was integral to my understanding of Melissa’s condition and allowed me to ensure she was managing her nutrition to optimise her recovery and performance,” said Felicity.
“I was able to guide the UHB team on nutritional requirements of elite female endurance athletes and together work out a strategy to best support Melissa.”
One in 10,000 people are thought to have this IMD, making it one of the more common rare diseases. It is milder in women, and is often diagnosed in childbirth or during a fasting period.
Since opening in 2015, the CfRD has welcomed thousands of patients, and currently has over 70 clinics.
The end of the 1,500m race can be viewed at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/commonwealth-games/43712667