Beverly’s Story – Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction

Photography: Graham Oxford, Photography Street

Biliary Sphincter Disorder, formerly known as Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (SOD). The Sphincter of Oddi is a muscle that opens and closes. It allows digestive juices, bile and pancreatic juice to flow properly through the ducts from the liver and pancreas into the small intestine.  When this muscle isn’t working properly, it doesn’t open when it should, leading to a backup of digestive juices that can cause severe pain in the abdomen.

When did you know something was not quite right with your health?

“It all started in 2005. I had been tired for several months but put it down to overdoing it with work and my home life. But one day in my local supermarket I suddenly slumped over the shopping trolley and turned grey. I came around and was told by those surrounding me in the supermarket that I should contact my doctor. Fortunately my husband was with me, so we went home first to drop the groceries off, then headed straight to A&E. The pain was excruciating and getting worse. After several tests, they found that my gallbladder was full of pus (an infection). I was immediately scheduled for emergency surgery and had my gallbladder removed via keyhole surgery.

How did you feel after your gallbladder was removed?

I felt so good after the operation. But over time I started becoming unreliable and was sent home from work due to jaundice and severe pain. I worked for a vets practice at the time which I loved. I never thought I would see an end to this career until I retired, but there were days I could not even get out of bed.

It was at this point that after many discussions and tests, I was diagnosed with Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction. On the days that I have an attack, I get a severe pain in my upper abdomen that radiates through the top of my back. I get bouts of vomiting too.

How have you been more recently?

Over the years I have tried many medications. Some didn’t suit me at all, and some made my general ability to function worse. I found my personality could change on different medications. There are some medications that give me a little bit of relief.

Photography: Graham Oxford, Photography Street

Sadly, I have had many more hospital visits, often traveling miles to hospitals for various procedures. This has been a mission, as I live in the North of the country and travelling when you are not well is not an easy task. It takes a toll on your overall health.

I have recently lost 4 stone in weight. This has helped with other health issues, which feels one less thing to worry about.

How has this condition affected your life?

Sadly I had to give up my job at the vets practice. Having Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction has been incredibly tough at times. The chronic pain and trying to work out what medication works for me has been a challenge too. One medication does not fit all with this condition. But I have always been a ‘half glass full’ person. I am blessed with good mental health.

In recent times I have seen a psychologist which has been a great help. My life has changed so much since been diagnosed with this condition, not always for the worse.

I also attend as many pain management sessions as I’m offered. I’ve really benefitted from talking to a therapist about my chronic pain. For me, this really helped.

I know I can’t hold down a regular job, but I can help in other ways. One way I like to help make the world a little bit better is by writing letters to Age UK members (their replies are incredible). I support my wonderful husband Graham in his photography business too.

Photography: Graham Oxford, Photography Street

More resources and research are much needed for this condition, which is why I reached out to Guts UK. I am so encouraged to see Guts UK featuring this condition, as so many have little to no knowledge of what Biliary Sphincter Disorders are, or how to treat them.

By nature, I am upbeat, but Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction has robbed me of my ability to work, my spontaneous nature and my sparkle. It’s a high price to pay.”

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