When Sammy experienced a pain, which in her words "was far worse than childbirth", she thought she was having a heart attack. Five months later, she was allowed home from hospital.
Tell us about you
“I’m Sammy and I live with my partner, James, and my three children in Bournemouth. I have two boys, Lewis (15), and Romeo (12), and a daughter, Sammy (8).
I’m a former beauty queen, so I’ve been around pageants most of my life. All I’ve known is eating healthily, exercising, and drinking plenty of water. I’m used to being busy, running between the kids’ football matches and other after school clubs! For work, I’m a children’s entertainer which I love.”
Can you remember when your symptoms of pancreatitis started?
“Early 2021, I was back and forth to the GP with chest pains. All their tests came back normal, but I felt generally unwell. At my son’s football match one day in March 2021, I collapsed in sudden pain. An ambulance was called, but they couldn’t find anything. I was sent on my way.
The following week, I picked my daughter up from a school trip and told one of the parents in the playground how faint I felt. But that same day, my blood test results came back as normal, with low iron.
That evening, the excruciating pains began again. I nudged James in the night with how much pain I was in, but eventually he went back to sleep. I just couldn’t settle with the pain. Suddenly, I became very feverish, and my abdomen was swelling in front of my eyes. James was worried, so took me to A&E at 5am in the morning.”
What happened when you arrived at hospital?
“The pain was a griping, stabbing pain that was far worse than childbirth and I told the nurses, “I’m having a heart attack”. I spent 48 hours screaming in agony in the hospital before a CT scan found the gallstone that was stuck in my bile duct, causing my pancreas to damage itself.
It was then, in March 2021, that I heard the words ‘acute pancreatitis’ for the first time. At first, the staff seemed hopeful that I would not become too unwell. I spent nearly five months in hospital and in July, I was finally allowed home.
When I walked through the front door at home, I fell through the door. I was so weak, the life had been knocked right out of me. I had no carer, so my family had to step in. I was left to work out everything on my own. I became so depressed, all I did was cry and I couldn’t understand what had happened to my body. I was only a size eight before, but I was down to weighing just five stone and I didn’t recognise my own body. I would sob for hours, and James would hold me. My daughter didn’t recognise me either, “You don’t look like mummy anymore”. And she was right. You could see my bones. Everyone around me were so caring and wonderful, but I could tell they were worried about me still.
They were right to be worried. Unfortunately in October of the same year, I was back in hospital where I’d spend even longer there than last time. I had an emergency endoscopic procedure and gallbladder removal on Halloween. I was very, very unwell. My pancreas had started to die, and I was diagnosed with severe acute necrotising pancreatitis. I went into intensive care six times.“
How were your family dealing with you being in hospital?
“The children’s father, their grandparents and James really stepped in to help and try and keep life as normal as possible for the children, but the children would break down every time they’d see me in hospital. They’d ask, “When are you coming home?”. By now, it was a year since my first attack. I’d spent longer in hospital than at home.“
How did you feel when you were told you could come home?
“I thought it was a joke! I was elated. There was no better feeling than walking through the double-doors into fresh air. But back home, I still could barely walk, and I relied a lot on my family caring for me and building my strength back up. I’d gone from being fit and healthy, to suddenly being in a different body that couldn’t do what it used to.”
How are you now?
“I’ve been told my pancreatitis is chronic now, and daily life with symptoms is very hard. I had to have private counselling to help with my depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after hospital. My life changed so drastically. But I’m surrounded by people who love, help and support me. I am filled with gratitude to be able to be at home with my children, and be a mother again.
My scars remind me that I am a warrior. Having my freedom back means everything to me. Now, I’m just desperate to raise awareness and money for Guts UK, reading their Kranky Panky stories has been elating to know I’m not alone. Talking to the team at Guts UK has been amazing, knowing I’m not the only one. But I feel this responsibility to raise awareness of pancreatitis to try and save lives, which is why I’m telling you my story today. I know not everybody is as fortunate as I was, so I will continue being grateful to wake up each morning, and take nothing for granted.”
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.