Gastroparesis: Mum hasn't eaten for four years and is fed through a drip after pregnancy paralysed her stomach
Mum of one Charlene Johnstone developed gastroparesis when she fell pregnant with her son, Hayden, now three - and hasn't been able to eat since.
The condition has paralysed her stomach, and since Hayden was born, Charlene has spent 14 hours a day attached to a drip, which she is fed through.
The illness has caused Charlene, 24, from Glasgow, to shrink from a healthy size 12 to a gaunt size six after being sick 15 times a day.
"I was initially told I was suffering complications from pregnancy. I had what I thought was severe morning sickness, lasting all day every day," says Charlene.
It didn't go away after the first trimester, but I still thought it was pregnancy-related because I was fit and healthy before. I just thought I was unlucky. When I was officially diagnosed with stomach paralysis, I was told it could have been caused by the weight of the baby and the size of my miniscule bump.
"They thought I was having a small baby, so I went two weeks overdue and was induced, but when Hayden was born he was 10lb. Doctors thought he'd probably de-sensitised the nerve that supplies the nerve function to the intestines."
When Charlene discovered she was pregnant, the former bouncer quit her job as the potential for injury was high, but as it turns out, she didn't have a choice as she was in and out of hospital for her entire pregnancy.
At 42 weeks Charlene gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but after having Hayden her health rapidly began to deteriorate.
Over the next few years baffled doctors explored everything. After being referred to a specialist Charlene was diagnosed with severe gastroparesis. The condition reduces the ability of the stomach to empty its contents even though there is no blockage. The cause of it is unknown, but medics believe it could be triggered by a disruption of nerve signals to the stomach.
By March 2009, Charlene couldn't keep anything down, and her weight plummeted to just five stone, making her dangerously ill.
After seven months in hospital, her weight slowly crept back up and she was discharged.
A temporary gastric pacemaker, in February 2010, proved successful and Charlene was eager for the permanent version, but although she was eligible, funding wasn't available.
"It was heart-breaking to have the pacemaker removed after five days," says Charlene. "My energy levels zapped back to zero and I was constantly vomiting again. The thought of another year like the last filled me with dread.
"The operation would cost £22,250. But my mum, Liz, 50, didn't give up and spoke to consultants and MPs until it was funded. I had it done in March 2010.
I was able to tolerate oral foods for almost eight months until my bowel failed. Intestinal failure is the final outcome. Nothing can be done at that stage, but with help from my consultant, Doctor Matthew Priest, at Gartnavel General Hospital, I can manage the symptoms.
"My ward are so supportive and when I'm ill they help me fight to get better. They're like a second family. The ward is so busy they don't get enough praise for what they do.
"Hayden has been my wee soldier. There are times when I'm very poorly and I want to give up but then I think of what my granny said, 'If you ever feel like giving up, then think about why you held on so long in the first place' and that reason is Hayden."
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