Romario Dos Santos Alves came dangerously close to losing both his arms, and his life.
Last month we wrote about a man who injected his penis with silicone until it weighed seven pounds. Now, here's a man whose obsession with enlarging part of his body doesn't prevent him from having normal sex, but it did almost kill him. There's a common theme to both stories: once you start, it's hard to stop.
Romario Dos Santos Alves is a 25-year-old husband and father from Caldas Novas, Brazil. He has dreams of becoming a professional bodybuilder. But he learned the hard way that shortcuts just aren't worth it. And now he wants to convince others.
In 2012, Alves moved to the big city of Goiania. He started hitting the gym, and fell in with some bodybuilders with massive arms. They turned him on to synthol. A mixture of oil, lidocaine, and alcohol, synthol is used by some bodybuilders to artificially increase the size of their muscles without exercise. It's called "fluffing." The effects are immediate, but unfortunately, so are the side effects.
Synthol contains toxic compounds that can cause embolisms, infections, nerve damage, and stroke. It also forms cysts in the muscles, turning them rock-hard and causing further complications. Plus, the enlargements are just cosmetic. Using it doesn't actually make you any stronger.
Alves knew all these things, but it didn't matter. Before long he was hooked, and injecting more than any of his gym buddies. When he could no longer reach the spots he needed to inject, he got his wife to do it. He even lied and said it wasn't permanent, just so she would agree to help him. His biceps became deformed as the synthol hardened his muscles, until they were, as he says, "filled with rocks." His arms were in constant pain, too hard to puncture with a normal syringe. So he got one designed for bulls. Children were frightened by his appearance, but he couldn't stop. He became depressed and even attempted suicide, which cost him his job. Meanwhile, his wife was six months pregnant.
His health deteriorated further. He nearly suffered kidney failure due to poisoning from the synthol. His arms contained necrotic tissue. A doctor told him the only way to save his life would be to have one of his arms amputated. But on the day he went to the hospital for the procedure, he got some amazing news. The doctor performed a CAT scan and realized he could cut out the synthol "rocks" without removing the arm. Alves had been given a second chance.
He hasn't used synthol since 2013, but he still feels the temptation. He even bought himself estigor, a horse hormone, but had a traumatic flashback just as he was about to inject it. He threw the syringe in the trash.
Alves still dreams of being a professional bodybuilder, but he's determined to do it the natural way. And now he wants to warn others of the dangers of synthol and similar products. He dreamed of being the Hulk, but there was one thing he forgot: even Bruce Banner doesn't want to be the Hulk.