So, in March I had my baby. I had a very traumatic pregnancy and birth, and nearly died in childbirth (all of which probably contributed to what happened next). I’m a single Mum, just to add to my stresses.
Fast forward 2.5 weeks. 11:30pm I wake up in sheer agony. I’m talking 10 times worse than labour or childbirth. I’m unable to move at all, my stomach is cramping, my body is literally being pulled into a doubled over position whilst lying on my side. I get taken to hospital via ambulance (My Mum stays with my daughter).
I’m left overnight in so much pain that the maximum amount of both oral and IV morphine doesn’t touch it, at all. After 3 different types of scan a CT scan shows a massive internal bleed, and fluid leak in my abdominal cavity. It turns out I have an undiagnosed duodenal ulcer which has basically exploded in my intestines. My abdomen is so full of fluid that my internal organs are starting to shut down. (Turns out that when I’d said to the GP for the last 4 years ‘I think I might have an ulcer’ I was actually right – but they didn’t listen because hey ho what could little old me know, I’m not a medical professional).
So they prep theatre and rush me in for major surgery within the hour because otherwise, I would die. Surgery goes well, but they have to briefly put me into a medical coma afterwards for worries that my body might not handle the physical shock. I spend 4 days in ITU being cared for, followed by a little more time on a ward to recover, tubes sticking in all over the place, six different drip lines (including one into an artery in my neck. Now I’m not really squeamish but, eek!)
I’m finally allowed home. Weirdly on the date that my baby was due to arrive – I’m unbelievably glad she made her arrival 3 weeks early, the thought that she was still meant to be in there… nope.
Now, instead of healing, and the pain lessening over time as it should do, the pain continues to get worse. Medication is repeatedly increased to try to deal with the pain, and after repeated trips back to the GP I’m referred back to the hospital for an endoscopy (camera down my throat, fun!)
Fast forward once again to today. I was due to have the endoscopy but our lovely friend Covid (thanks, mate) put all endoscopies on hold and now the waiting list is huge. So, Instead I had a call from a consultant.
Now, I’ve been feeling super rough lately. Headaches, nausea, exhaustion, the works but hey – single Mum here, of course I do, right? Only no, thankfully my Mum researched the medication I’ve been left on for four months, and it turns out I’ve been on FOUR times the maximum dose, and for about THREE times longer than the maximum time. Fab.
So the consultant tells me he wants me to stay on these meds, because yes he is quite concerned that the same symptoms are recurring. I have gastritis and duodenitis, and he is obviously concerned about what could happen… again. Covid means that I can’t get the investigative procedures that I need. I tell him these other symptoms, how long I’ve been on the meds etc, and he quickly changes course and instead tells me that I need to stop them.
He recommends a different type of medication before quickly changing course again. This time it turns out that we no longer have this medication in the UK (a quick google shows there were some worrying ingredients in it, so it’s not being distributed anymore). He recommends I stay on the medication I’m on after all, but reduce it down to four times less. The same medication that has been repeatedly increased because the low dose wasn’t doing anything to help the pain, and in fact the pain is worsening.
The only thing he can do is treat me for H. Pylori, a bacteria which commonly causes duodenal ulcers. A bacteria that I didn’t have before, and am very unlikely to have now. It’s not likely to be the cause of my current symptoms, but I understand and appreciate him trying to help.
Throughout my call this lovely doctor blatantly felt truly awful that he couldn’t get me in for the necessary procedures quick enough (seriously, NHS are heroes and once again f*ck Covid). He kept telling me repeatedly that I ‘must go to A&E if the pain worsens at all, or there are any worries. Don’t wait, go straight back’ as well as saying a few times ‘you’ve had this operation before, you don’t want to risk having it a second time’.
I basically feel like this poor man had no choice but to tell me – yes, I’m quite worried, yes you need investigations and treatment but no because of Covid we can’t do it. Go back to A&E because like you, I think you’re at risk and the pain will worsen, you definitely need investigations but we can’t do it because… Covid (Have I mentioned that I hate Covid?). A&E would be able to get me in for this procedure right away though, obviously.
I’m genuinely pretty terrified. I’ll keep holding my shit together, because it’s what I do. But what I went through has already been so traumatic, and the reality of my own mortality has hit me like a tonne of bricks. Every twinge of pain I get is terrifying, and the idea that it might worsen again makes me shudder. The much bigger idea that a perforation could happen again, and I could even die, chills me to the core. Honestly, I help but think… why me?