In April 2022, Camille ended up in hospital alone after experiencing pain worse than childbirth. All of a sudden, she had to focus on surviving for four long months, rather than being a mum and a partner.
Tell us a little about you
My name is Camille, and I am a 30-year-old mum of two boys. Noah is 19 months old and Freddie who is five years old. We live at home with my partner, James, in Lincolnshire. We also have a dog called Bruno and a tortoise called Arthur. We love getting outdoors for adventures as much as we can. Life is never boring!
Can you describe the symptoms that you first began experiencing?
Weeks after the birth of my second child, in April 2022, I experienced severe upper abdominal pain suddenly. This caused me to vomit continuously and was like nothing I’ve experienced before, including childbirth. I was so scared and felt like I was going to die.
My partner dropped me off at hospital due to Covid restrictions, and I felt so poorly and alone. I waited for six hours. I felt I was showing the signs of sepsis so made hospital aware. After waiting, I was admitted to high dependency then intensive care. Tests revealed I had severe acute necrotising pancreatitis, caused by gallstones. Being told “most of your pancreas is dead” was so scary to hear. My grandmother and aunty both had pancreatitis, so I’d heard of it before. We didn’t know much about it though and had to find information ourselves. Guts UK really helped with this.
Talk us through your time in hospital
Hospital was a rough ride. I had to focus on surviving rather than being a mum. It was hard and so emotional, and I felt like I was never going to get home. The swelling in my abdominal cavity from pancreatitis was pushing up into my chest against my lungs. I needed intense oxygen support, alongside pain relief and antibiotics.
After three weeks, I was transferred to a larger hospital under the care of a pancreatic specialist. I had abdominal drains, alongside blood thinning treatment for thrombosis and a chest drain. I also had a stent fitted to treat a pseudocyst (fluid collection on the pancreas). Physiotherapy was given to me to aid my chest and to help me walk again. I couldn’t even sit up in bed and had lost so much weight. This was the hardest part for me as before, I was a 29-year-old woman who was fit and healthy. Sitting in a chair for the first time was monumental for me.
I was in hospital for four months, largely on my own being unable to contact anyone because I felt so rough. I held in everything trying to be strong and positive and get through it for my family. My partner was at home with our two children, one who was then a premature newborn and the other not even four years old. He was trying so hard to juggle life in amongst visiting me, but visiting restrictions from Covid did apply too. He handled it all incredibly.
How are you doing more recently?
It has now been 18 months since it happened. In January 2023, I had my gallbladder removed too. I take prescribed pancreatic enzymes for pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI) but otherwise live a normal and happy, healthy life. I get to spend every day at home as a mum to my two wonderful boys.
I lost my hair, and this was so huge to me. Losing my long, thick, beautiful hair was horrible and it also turned grey. Once I started to recover, it grew back my natural colour, but I have a stripe of grey through it! I’ve never heard of this before.
I really hope by sharing my story it can reach one person going through similar. It’s hard to put into words how traumatic it can be, but you can overcome it and go on to live a normal life. I felt so alone in what I was going through. The knowledge I gained from Guts UK was invaluable, especially in the early days.
Why are you sharing your story?
Finding last year’s Kranky Panky stories helped me so much. I could relate to other people and felt comforted. For a long time, I couldn’t speak about what happened without crying and other people’s experiences helped me to speak out. I also want people to know that it’s okay and normal to have trauma from what they’ve been through but that they don’t have to do it alone.
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.