This is Marc's pancreatitis story told by his wife Cressida.
“Everything was normal – until it wasn’t.”
My husband Marc worked in the aviation industry. He loved baking, aeroplanes, walking, the beach and being with our 3 children. During COVID lockdown he had time to practice his baking skills, and he and our neighbour would share tips and have sourdough competitions.
On the afternoon of Saturday 5th September 2020, he went to A&E with a terrible headache. On the Sunday evening, he died of acute pancreatitis. He was just 48.
We had come home from a camping trip when Marc mentioned he had a headache. We thought nothing of it as we’d been walking all weekend – he just put it down to exhaustion.
Marc took painkillers, worked from home, went to the supermarket, helped with the school run – it was a usual week. On Wednesday he had a phone appointment with our GP as his head hurt when he moved it, he was tired and hadn’t been sleeping properly. The GP went through migraine symptoms with him and told him to ring back in a week if the headache hadn’t gone away. On Thursday he started falling asleep during dinner, I asked him what was wrong, he said he still had his headache and was tired. I told him to go to bed and I’d clean up after dinner and put our children to bed.
On Friday morning we took our children to school, and I reminded Marc to call the GP about his headache as it hadn’t improved. He went into the study to work, picked our children up from school and watched a movie with our youngest child. When I went to get everyone for dinner, he’d fallen asleep during the movie, so I didn’t wake him.
On Saturday when Marc woke up he still had his headache and I asked him if it was the worst headache he’d ever had. He said yes. We rang 111 who triaged him over the phone and said they’d get a doctor to call back. If he got worse we were to ring back. He hung up the phone and immediately started vomiting. I called 111. After speaking to Marc they sent an ambulance. By this time Marc was unsteady on his feet.
The ambulance arrived and due to COVID rules, he was triaged inside the vehicle and I couldn’t be with him. After a while, the driver came out and said while his vitals seemed okay they didn’t want to take any chances with the worst headache Marc had ever had. They took him to A&E alone.
Marc sent me a message late afternoon saying that scans and blood tests had come back normal, he had been given pain-relief and oxygen. The doctors suspected meningitis. At 9:04pm he messaged to say he was still vomiting, but they wanted to discharge him anyway. An hour later, Marc was on intravenous rehydration, his heart rate was high and they were doing more blood tests. We sent messages back and forth about nothing in particular until midnight.
At 8am, I woke to a message from him saying he’d been diagnosed with pancreatitis. The doctors weren’t sure why he had developed it. Marc was in ICU and treatment would be plenty of fluid, painkillers and antibiotics. We spoke briefly, he told me not worry as it was treatable. The ICU nurse rang me and said the same thing. Marc would be in hospital for about a week and they would set up virtual visiting. I looked up acute pancreatitis on the NHS website and it seemed to confirm what Marc and the nurse had said, so we went about our day and waited for virtual visiting.
By 1:30pm I hadn’t heard from the hospital or Marc. For 3 hours I sent Marc messages and rang ICU to no avail. I finally got through to ICU just before 4pm and I was told that Marc had had a cardiac arrest at lunchtime. My husband was unconscious and on life support. Strict Covid-19 visiting rules saw me pleading to be allowed to visit him.
When I got into ICU, I was told they weren’t sure why Marc had a cardiac arrest and that it was unlikely he would recover. We rang his parents. The doctors told they assume unconscious patients can hear people, so I went in to see him and held his hand and just talked. I asked if I could bring our children to see him. Due to Covid-19, there was a discussion about whether this would be allowed. They agreed our children could see him for just 2 minutes. 2 minutes! As we left, I told Marc I’d see him tomorrow. The ICU nurse whispered that his blood pressure was incompatible with life. As per Marc’s wishes, I immediately discussed organ donation with doctors.
Just before 11pm the hospital rang with the devastating news, Marc had another cardiac arrest and died. Telling our children their wonderful father had died and watching their young hearts break is the most horrendous thing I have ever had to do.
It is now over a year since Marc died. We still don’t know why he developed acute pancreatitis or why he had a cardiac arrest and deteriorated so rapidly.
Months on, our daughters Poppy and Ariella decided to grow their hair so it could be cut and donated to the Little Princess Trust. At the same time, they decided to fundraise for Guts UK in memory of their father. They bravely cut 13 inches and 14 inches from their hair, raising almost £2,000."There is no effective treatment for pancreatitis. In telling our story we hope to raise awareness and help find a cure." - Cressida, Marc's wife
There is no effective treatment for pancreatitis. There is no cure.
Guts UK is the only UK charity funding a research fellowship into pancreatitis. We are dedicated to finding an effective treatment, a cure for this misunderstood and underfunded condition.
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