Ian shares his story as part of Guts UK's Pancreatitis Awareness Campaign, Kranky Panky.
Hi, my name is Ian. I’m a pretty normal twenty-six-year-old from Aberdeen, whose life changed dramatically a little over a year ago now.
I will never forget Tuesday 29th October 2019. This day began a three-month hospital stay. It was a pretty normal day. I had just returned from a holiday with friends in Amsterdam and had been staying the night at my ex-girlfriend’s place. Just after she left for work, I got up to have a shower. The most indescribable pain hit me, like a knife had been plunged into my belly. It was all so sudden and so unexpected I had no idea what was happening. I collapsed to the floor, started to sweat and lose my breath. I crawled from the shower to my phone in the bedroom to call my mum. My mum whisked me up to hospital, where I could barely talk at the A&E counter. I remember throwing my wallet on the desk to give the receptionist my ID and then laying on the floor.
All credit to the staff at hospital (and thank goodness it was a quiet Tuesday morning), as I was taken into evaluation almost immediately, given painkillers, sedatives, then taken to a CT scan where I was quickly diagnosed with severe acute pancreatitis. I had heard of pancreatitis. My uncle had been severely ill on two occasions with the same illness and now lives with chronic pancreatitis. Following a boozy weekend with friends in Amsterdam, an underlying staph aureus infection had caused my organs (including my pancreas) to swell.
The three months that followed are a blur. This will be a combination of the constant (very strong) pain relief, two spells in a high dependency unit, two spells in intensive care and the undeniable boredom of being in hospital for so long. It was all so overwhelming and confusing that I can barely remember the daily details.
There are some things I won’t forget though:
- I won’t forget being told a third of my pancreas was necrotic (dead).
- I won’t forget being told that I had to go on a ventilator or oxygen to do the simplest of tasks like shower or go to the toilet.
- I won’t forget waking during the initial surgery to drain the necrotic tissue.
- I won’t forget the months spent tube feeding or losing over 3 stone in under eight weeks.
- I won’t forget having to miss my master’s graduation, grandmother’s burial, office parties, gigs, friends’ birthdays, and more.
- Most of all, I won’t forget seeing the pain that my friends and family went through as they saw this all unfold, helplessly.
The strain of it all was enough to recently end my relationship of seven years. I can only try to understand the pain she went through, supporting me and watching over me as I fell so ill.
I wish I could tell those with the illness or at risk of the illness that everything will be okay and you’ll be grand, but I want to be as brutally honest as possible about this cruel disease. I want others to know what to expect.
For those reading this with pancreatitis, please know that after such a horrible ordeal and all the associated life changes, one year on I am still alive and very much well. My life is coming back together – I’m getting on with things.
I can no longer drink alcohol and I suffer from PTSD/depression. I live with half a pancreas, which means I need to adjust my diet and take pancreatic enzymes but, most importantly, I am alive!
Being in so much pain and seeing your loved ones struggle to cope around you is something that you never forget. The trauma of equally painful treatment will probably stay ingrained in your mind like it does in mine, but there is hope.
In each follow-up appointment with my consultant, he reminds me that I had one of the worst cases of severe acute pancreatitis he had ever seen. But in the same breath, he tells me about how remarkable my recovery has been.
To anyone reading this who has pancreatitis or knows someone dealing with it, I promise you that there is hope. Pancreatitis may change your life, but don’t let it ruin your life. Above all else, know that this largely unheard-of disease has been experienced by thousands of others. You are not alone. There is help out there, reach out to Guts UK. I hope that by reading this, you will know just how brutal pancreatitis can be but that you can fight through, even the worst of cases with a bit of hope, will-power and the support of your loved ones.With your support, we can fund research that will ensure that students like Ian don't miss their graduation to pancreatitis. Let's make pancreatitis a condition of the past. Donate to Guts UK today.
There is no effective treatment for pancreatitis. There is no cure.
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