Mom does 5,332 burpees in 12 hours to help daughter with rare birth defect

Gena Laielli's burpee total is expected to break a world record.

January 21, 2020, 4:18 AM

Gena Laielli, a 37-year-old mom of two, completed 5,332 burpees in 12 straight hours.

The number -- a staggering feat for anyone who has tried to do one burpee -- is poised to break a world record.

The world record will be a nice accolade, but the most important thing to Laielli is that she finished her burpee marathon with her 6-year-old daughter Emma by her side.

Emma was born with omphalocele, a rare birth defect of the abdominal wall in which a baby's organs "stick outside of the belly through the belly button," according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Laielli, of New Jersey, found out about Emma's condition when she was around 13 weeks pregnant. She was told by doctors to "hope for the best but expect the worst" with her pregnancy and that she would likely miscarry.

After spending weeks of her pregnancy on bed rest, Laielli gave birth to Emma in June 2013, nearly seven weeks before her due date.

Emma spent the next nine months in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). When she went home, she still had a ventilator, a tracheotomy and required nursing care.

When Emma came home from the NICU, Laielli created a home gym in her backyard so that she could exercise -- for the first time in nearly two years -- without being far from Emma.

As Emma healed and grew stronger, Laielli took her on runs and eventually opened up her own gym with her brother.

Six surgeries later, Emma is a kindergarten student who is expected to lead a long, normal and healthy life.

Each January, Emma joins her mom in doing an event at the family's gym to celebrate Omphalocele Awareness Month.

This year, they decided to do a burpee-a-thon at the gym to raise money for omphalocele research and CHOP, where Emma received life-saving care.

"I love burpees. They have always been my love language," said Laielli. "We are known as the 'burpee gym' around here."

In addition to the burpee-a-thon, Laielli decided to take on the challenge of breaking the world record for the most chest to ground push up burpees in 12 hours by a female. The current record, achieved by an Australian woman in 2018, stands at 4,785 burpees.

Laielli completed 5,332 burpees between 7:40 a.m. and 7:40 p.m. on Jan. 11 with a team of six judges required by Guinness Book of World Records watching and recording her every move.

Guinness Book of World Records confirmed to "GMA" that it received Laielli's world record application and is currently reviewing it, a process that could take several weeks.

Laielli says all 12 hours of the fitness ordeal were worth it to pay back Emma for all the strength she's shown over the years. Emma, who faced an uncertain future at birth, did burpees with her mom for the last 10 minutes of the challenge.

"We just took it hour by hour in the NICU because no one had any answers and there was no light at the end of the tunnel," Laielli said. "I’m glad we gave her that chance because she’s 6 years old and she has a bunch of scars but she’s totally fine."

"To see her doing burpees and knowing all that she went through and she’s busting burpees like it’s nothing, that just made my day," she said of Emma. "She is the strongest person I know."

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