David shares his story as part of Guts UK's Pancreatitis Awareness Campaign, Kranky Panky.
I’m David, aged 61 and just over a year ago, I suffered an acute pancreatitis attack and began a spell of 7 months in hospital.
I was previously totally unfamiliar with pancreatitis, though with hindsight now believe I had one or two warnings of the forthcoming problems, but at the time they seemed isolated and short lived.
On that fateful day in August I experienced severe pains in the upper abdomen and by the time I arrived home, I was profusely sweating and feeling sick.
After phoning 111, I went to A&E, was admitted and diagnosed with pancreatitis and was told I would probably be released in a few days.
After a couple of days I’d stopped producing urine and was moved to critical care for dialysis.
Things went from bad to worse. My kidneys started working again, but my other organs failed and lots of measures and procedures followed to try to stabilise things. I developed sepsis on three separate occasions and also suffered several internal bleeds requiring numerous blood transfusions, not to mention a nasty bed sore and c-difficile infection.
I was eventually transferred to a nearby hospital with a specialist pancreas unit. For a few weeks it really was touch and go. My wife kept a dedicated diary. Reading through this has helped me understand this strange and unsettling period a little more.
I came around in the “new” ICU. I had a tracheotomy tube in place for ventilator assisted breathing. This rendered me unable to speak. Coupled with the strange surroundings, this led me to believe I‘d been kidnapped and prevented from speaking, to stop me raising the alarm! I was definitely away with the fairies for a little while and only when my family came to visit, did I start returning to the real world.
The internal bleed problem was resolved thanks to the superb endoscopy skills in the unit and thoughts turned to returning back to our local hospital, then eventually home. After about 6 weeks I made the hospital transfer – ICU to ICU, so the ambulance crew were allowed to use the blues and twos, carving through rush hour traffic in a most impressive manner!
Soon, I was back on a normal ward and starting the long rehabilitation process. Eating was a real problem, I literally dreaded mealtimes which generally lead to sickness and nausea. I was taking pancreatic enzymes (Creon) and initially could only manage breakfast cereal and desserts. Eventually I progressed to a wider range of food. The main problem then became rebuilding muscle strength after about 5 months in bed.
Christmas and New Year came and went. I moved from being hoisted to my bedside chair to using various contraptions, each needing more input from the patient than the previous one, and eventually I was whizzing about on a sporty zimmer frame.
With Covid-19 on the horizon I was finally released, being carried through our back door in a wheelchair on 13th March. I received a couple of visits from physiotherapy nurses before full lockdown began. After that, I was effectively left to my own devices, to progress to a wheeled walker then eventually walking unaided, mastering the stairs, cycling and driving.
Post-lockdown, I had an ERCP procedure to hopefully minimise the likelihood of future problems, and a follow up meeting with my consultant has been scheduled for mid January.
Enormous thanks of course to all the hospital staff and to my family for their support through this at times traumatic experience. I was particularly glad that daughter Sam, who is a nurse, was able to provide a useful interpretation as things progressed! Sam signed up to take part in the Jurassic Coast Challenge, fundraising for Guts UK and although it has been postponed to 2021, she has still raised over £600! My son, Gareth has been a huge help around the house too. Helping with tasks that hopefully I’ll be able to do again, when back to full strength.
Guts UK is the only UK charity funding a research fellowship into pancreatitis.
We are dedicated to finding an effective treatment for this devastating condition. People are suffering, people are dying, all because of a lack of knowledge about our guts. Join our community and champion our cause by donating to our life-saving research today.Be part of life-saving research. Donate to Guts UK today.