Nathalie’s Story

The hospital originally thought Nathalie's pain was appendicitis. However, it later turned out she had acute pancreatitis.

Nathalie and her husband, Matthew.

“I’m Nathalie, 31 years old from The Netherlands. My Mum is Indonesian-Chinese, and my Dad is Papua New Guinean-Chinese. I moved to UK for University in 2011 and stayed since. I live in Kent with my husband Matthew, our dog, Robbie, and guinea pig, Spencer Jr. I work for the local council, and I love cooking and baking.

I remember one Saturday night in February 2021 telling my husband Matthew that my tummy was hurting in between my ribs. I can’t explain how it felt, but I thought it would pass when I sleep – the best cure! In the morning, the pain was still there. I carried on and went to the supermarket. It was close to Chinese New Year, and I wanted to make my Dad pineapple tarts. The pain worsened and that evening, and I found myself limping. I phoned 111 and was told to go to A&E.

In A&E, they thought I had appendicitis. I was given painkillers and a sandwich around 11pm as I hadn’t eaten all day. They thought I had COVID, but each test came out negative. They admitted me for a week and found out it was acute pancreatitis but didn’t know what had caused it. I was discharged from hospital.

In March I woke Matthew up around 4am with excruciating pain. I could barely walk. He drove me to A&E quickly. I felt like I was going to pass out and was put in a wheelchair straight away. I barely made it to A&E entrance. I was lost for words and gave the receptionist my previous discharge letter. Matthew couldn’t be with me due to COVID rules.

I was diagnosed with severe acute necrotising pancreatitis. I was transferred to intensive care the next day, and the hospital let Matthew come to see me. He was the only visitor. They made an exception for me. I was overjoyed, as I’d missed him lots. Soon, doctors asked to speak to him alone. When he came back, his face completely changed. I asked him what the doctor said, but he said nothing much. He had to leave soon after.

That evening I deteriorated. Matthew was woken up around 1am and was informed I will be put in an induced coma. He was told they didn’t know whether I’d survive. It was up to me to fight. They sedated me and inserted wires/tubes and I fell asleep. Matthew had visited me when I was in the coma, spoke to me and held my hand. I spent five months in hospital, and 67 days in intensive care. They believed my pancreatitis was caused by high triglyceride levels.

Matthew and Robbie, visiting Nathalie in hospital

My parents came to UK to see me, but had to self-isolate for 10 days. Matthew gave them our bedroom and used the inflatable bed in the spare room. When I woke from coma, I was surprised and happy to see them. My mum prayed, cut my nails and put cream on my dry hands and feet. My dad was speechless and asked me to be strong and keep fighting. Because my parents lived overseas, they were given permission to visit me in intensive care every day. Fortunately, after they left, Matthew was allowed to continue to see me.

I had to learn to walk again, which was very difficult. The physiotherapy team pushed me every day. I had a tracheotomy, so I couldn’t speak. Matthew took advantage to tease me, as he knows I love to speak! The nurses were incredible and supportive. On my birthday they bought me a cake and sang by my bed.

For the last six weeks in hospital, I was transferred to a more specialist hospital to drain my pseudocyst. They discovered I had a blocked colon, so I had to have emergency surgery which resulted in a temporary stoma. This was really difficult for me. I cried after the surgery, begging them to sew back the stoma. It was not a usual colostomy, it was right in the middle of my tummy due to the inflamed pancreas.

Nathalie, Matthew and their parents

When I finally came home, Matthew was amazing. He cleaned my mess up without complaining and washed my clothes when I felt disgusting. I’m very thankful for him. He’s been my rock through everything. I love him so much.

In February (02-02-2022), Matthew and I got married. It was a small and intimate ceremony with my best friend, Monika, and Matthew’s best man, John. Our parents were outside cheering with confetti!

I’ve since had stoma reversal surgery and I still see my consultants for pancreatitis, diabetes, triglyceride management, and dietitian a few times a year. I have Type 3c diabetes now as my pancreas don’t produce enzymes anymore, so I have to take insulin.

If you haven’t been through pancreatitis, you’ll never fully understand it. I was lucky to receive so much support from family and friends. I realised how hard it was on them too. I live a happy life. I don’t feel there’s time to be sad or upset. I nearly lost my life, and I treasure this second chance. I missed out on five months of my life, so I find myself planning more things like weekends away or a day out. I wouldn’t wish this pain on another human being, not even my worst enemy.

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.

Our guts have been underfunded and misunderstood for too long. Together, we can change that. Donate to our life-saving research today. Thank you.

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