Paul’s Story

Paul didn't even know he had a pancreas until he was diagnosed with pancreatitis. This is Paul's pancreatitis story.

Hi, my name is Paul and I’m 49 years old and I own a restaurant. I’m really into the outdoors and hiking, as well as travelling all over the world. I’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing places, like experiencing the Northern Lights in Iceland.

In 2008, I began getting pains within my ribcage that I can only describe as being like an ‘electric shock’. The pains would take my breath away for seconds and minutes, and then they would go just as quickly as they came on. I experienced this a few times throughout April and March.

One day in May, I was at the football and I experienced a huge surge of extreme pain and sickness. I was on the floor on my hands and knees, grasping at my stomach and being sick, but everybody thought I was drunk so were walking straight past me. I had only had four bottles of beer over the hours that I was there.

Once I was at A&E, I was treated for food poisoning for two days, until I was then diagnosed with pancreatitis. This was a complete shock and I was struggling to process this information. I’d never heard of pancreatitis and I didn’t even know I had a pancreas. I was on very strong painkillers, and I didn’t know what was going on around me or who was around the bed, but it was the only time I could shut my eyes.

Whenever the painkillers wore off, I would be curled up in the foetal position. I was being sick all the time.

In my first week in hospital, I had my gallbladder removed as they found gallstones and this was suspected to be the cause of my pancreatitis (the gallstone became stuck in the bile duct). But before the pains started, I dropped a 46kg dumbbell on my chest too. Although the consultant believed I had gallstone-induced pancreatitis, they did say that there’s a small possibility it could’ve been caused by this physical injury.

Seeing me in such a way took a toll on my parents, as they visited me every day in hospital. After having my gallbladder removed, I still wasn’t getting better so I had repeat scans, which found I had a pseudocyst developing on my pancreas that was 11cm. The draining of this pseudocyst was even more painful than the pancreatitis itself. It was like someone had stuck a knife in me.

At one point, I was given parenteral nutrition (feeding via the veins) as I couldn’t eat. I actually ended up refusing this, as it was causing me so much pain in my arm. As a result, I lost four stone in weight over the seven weeks I spent in hospital.

After the seven weeks spent in hospital, I was finally well enough to be discharged. I was losing my house due to not working and being unable to pay my mortgage. I went back to work, but I wasn’t mended. I was barely sleeping and very thin.

In the meantime, I did a lot of research into pancreatitis and upon my next appointment with my consultant, I requested to be referred to the nearest specialist centre, to which they said yes.

Over the coming three years, I continued getting attacks of pancreatitis. I found that whenever I was admitted, consultants would say “have you been drinking?” or worse, “have you been drinking again?” I’d always drank very little, as I liked being able to drive home. As soon as I was diagnosed with pancreatitis too, I removed myself from social situations that would involve alcohol, which as it turns out, is almost every social occasion. There were situations where I’d say I don’t drink, and I was called a wimp. It’s this ‘lad culture’ that’s really damaging.

During this time, I was quite depressed. Having to take pancreatic enzymes every time I ate too was difficult to come to terms with. I’m also vegetarian and as these enzymes are produced using the pancreas of a pig, this is hard for me too, though I know I must take these enzymes for my health.

During this time, I was a painter and decorator and began work at the house of somebody who worked as a consultant at the same hospital I’m a patient at. I was outside having a break, a cigarette and experiencing pain, so I was grasping at my stomach. He came outside to check I was okay, and I explained what had happened to me. He told me to stop smoking, but I didn’t take this seriously until I was next rushed to A&E. When I was leaving A&E, I walked past a huge amount of people smoking by the entrance. From that day on, I haven’t had a single cigarette and I have also not had any bad pancreatitis attacks since.

In 2012 I was diagnosed with diabetes. I have since discovered that diabetes associated with pancreatic disease is type 3c diabetes, so I am beginning a conversation surrounding my diagnosis.

I’ve found reading other Kranky Panky stories very comforting and they have also helped my understanding of pancreatitis. It’s nice to be able to relate to other people and feel less alone.

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.

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.

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