Lucy and Peter’s Story
When Lucy was diagnosed with pancreatitis, she struggled to understand what was happening. Nobody could predict that it would strike her family again in such a devastating way.
Tell us about you
“I’m Lucy, I’m 39 years old working in merchandising in retail, which involves a lot of travelling outside of the country. Today, I’m going to be sharing my own pancreatitis story, and my father-in-law, Peter’s, too.”
When did you first experience symptoms, Lucy?
“It was in 2018 and I was 33 years old, due to get married to Tom in just five weeks. I’d spent a couple of days with horrible stomach pain that I couldn’t shift. I couldn’t sleep or get comfortable. Work sent me home, where the pain was worsened so I called 111 who advised me to go to hospital. At hospital, they said I had a kidney infection so I was sent home with antibiotics.
The following day, I had to travel back to where my parents live in Torquay for my bridal hair and makeup trial and I cried the whole way back on the train. When I got there, Mum thought I was in labour as I was now on my hands and knees in agony. My parents drove me back to London and at this point, my doctor called me. “We’ve had your blood test results, and there’s something concerning. Would you like me to phone you an ambulance or would you like to go to hospital yourself?”
I was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis in hospital, where I spent almost two weeks. It was emotional as I was panicking about making the wedding. I found that the staff didn’t really know what to do with me, and were offering me food that I don’t think they should’ve. No one actually sat me down and explained what had happened. They never find a cause for the pancreatitis, and never found gallstones.“
Did you make the wedding?
“Tom and I got married and it was the loveliest day. I’d lost two stone so my wedding dress had to be taken in by three dress sizes, but I didn’t care what I looked like at that point. I had a new perspective on what mattered and what didn’t.”
Why did Pete experience pancreatitis?
“Pete was the best father-in-law you could get. Pete was very active, always swimming and walking. He was married to Kate, with four children; Tom, Lucy, Georgia and Bella.
On a Wednesday evening in 2022, Pete enjoyed watching one of his daughters play violin in the Opera, but on the Thursday he was complaining he felt sick. On Friday he collapsed at home where he was with Kate. The ambulance arrived and were immediately worried about him, so sent him to a specialist centre for pancreatitis.
He was diagnosed with severe acute necrotising pancreatitis, so his pancreatic tissue was dying. Tom and I went to go and visit him on the Saturday morning, and when we arrived, his bed was empty and his belongings were on the floor outside his room. We panicked and the colour drained from Tom’s face. We were told he’d been taken to intensive care.“
Talk us through Pete’s time in intensive care
“In intensive care, Pete was conscious but he had ICU delirium. This was so hard for Tom to see his dad so distressed. Eventually, they put Pete into an induced coma to take the pressure off his other organs and give him a chance to fight the pancreatitis.
Pete just wasn’t getting better. He had pseudocysts (collections of fluid) on his pancreas, his organs were failing, first his heart and then his liver. It was hard on us all to watch. He made it through his daughters’ birthday, and the next day we were told there’s nothing more they could do. So we sat with him, listening to music and talking to him. The hospital had done everything they could. Just seven days after he enjoyed a day out at the opera, Pete died aged just 69 years old. In just six weeks, he would’ve celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with Kate.
Pete had this gift of making you feel welcomed and special. He was positive, stoic and kind. There is a big gaping hole in our lives where Pete once was. He’d had such an incredible life, so he had so many stories to tell. We all miss hearing him tell them.“
Why are you sharing this story today?
“Our family has experienced pancreatitis twice now. Our family is living proof that you can fully recover from an acute pancreatitis attack and live a full life. But we’re also living proof of how deadly pancreatitis can be. How can it be that in today’s world, the only treatment for Pete was putting him in a coma to ease the pressure on his other organs? How is there no treatment for this condition?
Pete wanted to help people, and he’d want his story to be told. When he died we also raised almost £2,000 for Guts UK in his memory, keeping his legacy alive. Pete would be telling his story much more eloquently than I am, and it would be guaranteed that you’d laugh, cry and cheer. Pete lived life to the full, and although his life was cut too short, he certainly packed a lot in there.“
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.