Nathan’s Story

Nathan had his first attack of pancreatitis at 14. Now 21, this is Nathan's pancreatitis story.

Hi, my name is Nathan and I am 21 years old (very nearly 22!) During my life I have experienced a number of health conditions, but the one disease that changed my life completely is pancreatitis.

I remember my first attack vividly. I was just 14 years old and I had just got ready to go to school. I felt a stabbing pain like nothing I’d ever felt before. My mum thought I was swinging the lead (and I don’t blame her, as I never was a fan of school). I ended up not going to school but by this point I was sweating, so my dad got me a GP appointment and I was sent home with heartburn/indigestion medication.

I remember feeling really frightened. I lasted a couple hours at home, but I was in agony, so dad took me to A&E. There I started vomiting a substance that looked ‘radioactive’ (which I later discovered was bile). I felt like I was dying. 

I was taken quite quickly to the children’s ward. I was given strong painkillers and told I couldn’t eat, but I hate needles and the cannula was proving problematic. Doctors asked me how much alcohol I had drunk. I was 14! I didn’t drink. I kept throwing up, the pain was excruiating and I was terrified.

Eventually, my family and I were told I had acute pancreatitis. We had never heard of it before. I spent a week in hospital and lost lots of weight, as I couldn’t eat.

A year later, I got another attack of pancreatitis. Mum came home from work to find me on the kitchen floor. She said I was dripping with sweat and violently throwing up bile again. We sat in A&E for what seemed like hours, the whole time I was curled up on the seat, crying in pain. Mum had to convince the staff I had pancreatitis, and eventually I was taken into resus and given immediate pain relief. This time I was in hospital for four days and sent home. The pain went on for days afterwards.

I was sent to the children’s hospital, where I remember them asking a lot about my poo and I didn’t understand why. I had several more attacks in the following years. As soon as I turned 16, mum wasn’t allowed to stay with me during these hospital stays, so I’d be scared and alone.

My poo gradually became very oily and grey in colour. I lost so much weight. At 20 years old, I was referred to a specialist unit a long way from home. COVID had started by then, so I was very anxious at finding the right place in such a massive hospital. With my poor memory issues caused by another health condition, mum was allowed to accompany me. I had an endoscopy with biopsies. They said I should have my gallbladder removed and take pancreatic enzymes with everything I eat, to help digest my food.

In the last six months, the pancreatitis has come back with vengeance. I can’t remember a day when I haven’t been in pain. With my memory problems, I’m always forgetting my pancreatic enzymes with food. I have constant hospital appointments. I am now on anti-depressants and I can’t work as I am so unreliable. My dad is my registered carer now.

I struggle to eat due to the horrible pain I have to deal with afterwards, and I can never go for a drink with my mates, which is hard as I am only young still. My long hot water bottle and morphine get me through my days. I can’t see a future and it scares me.

I am so lucky that I have a close family around me that have helped me through the hard years. My mum and dad of course, my twin brother Joe and fantastic big sister Becky who supports me through the many forms and appointments. I also now have my little boy Arthur, who is my world. I have him to live for now.

"Guts UK Charity and the Kranky Panky stories have been invaluable for advice over the last months. I now know I am not alone. People have been there and experienced what I have before me. There needs to be more awareness of this debilitating disease. Keep up the good work, Guts UK." - Nathan

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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