Anne’s story is told by Anne’s son, James, and daughter in law, Kayleigh, with help from Anne’s son Robert, daughter Katherine and husband Geoff.
Mum had a warm and loving heart, she would go out of her way to help absolutely anyone. Mum was always busy with a craft project of some sort, she made our wedding invitations and cake! She’d make cards and knit too.
Mum worked in the orthopaedic department at the local hospital for almost 20 years, and was highly thought of by her colleagues and patients. Anne met and married Geoff and lived on a dairy farm with him for many years. Our family moved away when we were still young children.
It was January this year when Mum’s symptoms began. Mum was healthy for the most part, but began experiencing a pain that began in her lower left back and radiated to her front. Mum was admitted to hospital with excruciating pain, vomiting, and felt sweaty and dizzy. The hospital thought she might have a kidney infection.
Mum was given antibiotics, but the fever continued. She had CT and MRI scan, but all they could see was that Mum’s bile ducts were dilated. The team in charge of her care wondered if she’d already passed a gallstone. She was discharged home with a follow-up plan for a few weeks’ time, to look at her gallbladder and pancreas in further detail. This procedure showed some small gallstones.
In March Mum was back in hospital with extreme pain, fever and vomiting where she was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. She was quickly taken into intensive care this time and sedated. Mum had developed multi-organ sepsis. We were told the pancreatitis would affect Mum in one of two ways; Mum would recover slowly over the next few weeks, or she would experience major complications and potentially require years of rehabilitation.
About two weeks into her stay, Mum unfortunately had a heart attack during the night, which set her back. The team wanted to stabilise Mum enough so they would be able to remove any gallstones blocking her pancreas and potentially remove her gallbladder at a later point. Initially she made progress. She was slowly being weaned off her sedation and her medication to maintain her blood pressure. She was awake and although she couldn’t talk, she would acknowledge you. The ICU rollercoaster was full of ups and downs, yet Mum was incredibly brave throughout.
Mum had a tracheotomy (opening created through the neck into the windpipe to help with breathing), and was working towards having a speaking valve for communication. It seemed good for her to have this to work towards, as we could tell she was becoming frustrated that she couldn’t communicate and didn’t understand what was going on.
The intensive care staff were brilliant with us as a family, but we felt they weren’t keeping Mum fully informed. At one point she asked us, “What’s wrong with me?” We didn’t know what to say. We don’t think Mum was told how unwell she really was, but we understand communication was difficult for the staff too.
Whilst Mum was in hospital, her and Dad had their 40th wedding anniversary. We were grateful we could all see Mum and COVID restrictions weren’t in full-force, but visiting was still limited.
Mum had several procedures to insert a drain into her pancreas to drain the infection. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough and Mum developed bowel ischemia (decrease of blood flow to the bowels) and a bowel perforation (tear). Mum was told that she would die without an operation on her bowels, but that they didn’t feel she was well enough to recover from it.
Mum was adamant that she wanted the operation, and against the odds, she did pull through. But she couldn’t fully recover. Mum had the procedure on Saturday night, and passed away in the early hours of Monday with her sister Debbie by her side. She had spent 12 weeks fighting in intensive care. Mum was just 59 years old.
Mum adored her grandchildren, Dylan and Harry, and her step-grandson Harley. Both Dylan and Harry are three years old, so we are struggling with the fact that they will have limited memories with their Nanny, and our Mum. But we’ll do all we can to keep her memory alive. Mum was an extraordinary woman living an ordinary life.
We’re sharing her story today to help others. We’re surprised by how similar other Kranky Panky Campaign stories are to Mum’s. Despite several of us being medical professionals, none of us quite knew how quickly things can go wrong with pancreatitis. We wonder, if you asked people on the street to name 10 organs, how many would say the pancreas? Yet we saw just how quickly Mum deteriorated.
We want to do our bit to change the future for other families, so people don’t have to experience what we did. It’s what Mum would’ve wanted.
There is no effective treatment for pancreatitis. There is no cure.
Guts UK is dedicated to finding an effective treatment, a cure for this misunderstood and underfunded condition. We are building a community affected by pancreatitis, comforted in knowing they’re not alone.