Lifestyle

Constipation is killing me – I had 3 cardiac arrests and vomited the contents of my bowels

A MOTHER whose life has been ruined by severe constipation fears her illness will kill her if she doesn’t get help.

Elaine Doherty suffered three cardiac arrests, six blood transfusions, was hospitalized over 150 times and now weighs under 7.

Elaine's life is ruled by constipation, which causes her pain and bleeding

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Elaine’s life is ruled by constipation, which causes her pain and bleedingPhoto credit: Elaine Doherty
She has had numerous major surgeries and has lost a lot of weight. Now she hopes that a new specialist can help

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She has had numerous major surgeries and has lost a lot of weight. Now she hopes that a new specialist can helpPhoto credit: Elaine Doherty

The 47-year-old from Derry has had her entire colon and part of her small intestine removed and an ostomy pouch fitted, but she still lives in constant pain and is practically housebound.

A horrific incident left her bleeding so profusely that her husband Tony, 48, had to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation to save her life.

The mother-of-three says her rare condition, solitary rectal ulcer syndrome, has made the past 20 years a misery.

She could not go to the toilet for weeks and once vomited the contents of her intestines.

“There are days when I really feel like I can’t go on,” she says. “The only thing that keeps me going is Tony and my family.

“I have two grandchildren and another on the way – I want to stay alive for them.

“Right now, every day is hell. Whenever I eat, I get sick or bleed. I am in so much pain that I only sleep every three or four nights.

“I just want to know what’s going on inside me. I just want to be able to have less pain and live a more normal life.”

Elaine believes her condition was triggered by appendicitis when she was only two years old.

“I was lucky to survive,” she says. “My appendix ruptured and my parents were told there was enough poison in my system to kill three adult men.

“At some point a priest was called to administer last rites.

“I had surgery to remove my appendix, but I had a lot of internal scars on my bowel.”

During her teens, Elaine became a champion Irish dancer, but often suffered from stomach upsets, what doctors dubbed “upset stomach”.

By the time she hit her 20s, she suffered chronic constipationand often did not go to the toilet for several weeks.

“When I first met Tony I hid my stomach problems from him because I was so embarrassed,” she says.

Once a priest was called to administer last rites

Elaine

“It wasn’t until we were married and having kids that he realized how miserable I was.

“Each of my pregnancies has made it worse. I remember a point during my second pregnancy when I was stuck on the toilet, losing blood and having to call Tony for help.”

After the birth of her daughters Amy, 25, Caitlin, 21, and Molly, 18, Elaine sought help for them bowel problemsbut says she was initially dismissed and told she had IBS.

She was repeatedly hospitalized with complete blockages and sometimes vomited the contents of her intestines.

In one particularly distressing incident, she suffered a prolapsed rectum.

Elaine was finally diagnosed with a severe case of solitary rectal ulcer syndrome in 2012.

This disease affects about 1 in 100,000 people and causes colon ulcers, bleeding, chronic constipation and pain.

Elaine has undergone multiple surgeries to remove parts of her intestines.

SCAR TISSUE

“When they opened me up, they found I was a mess of scar tissue and blockages,” she says. “Part of my intestines were stuck to the side of my uterus.

“Eventually they gave me a full colectomy – which means they removed my entire colon and fitted one ostomy bag.”

But not having a colon didn’t end Elaine’s nightmare. She was still in pain and sometimes her ostomy pouch would fill with blood.

“One day in 2013 I was laying in bed and I felt this wetness,” she says. “I got up and went to the landing where I collapsed.

“Tony called 999 and they told him how to give me CPR. When the paramedics arrived they initially thought he had stabbed me because there was blood everywhere.

“He had to explain to them that I was bleeding from my intestines. He undoubtedly saved my life that day.”

Elaine now likens her condition to “a living death”, with Tony being forced to quit her job to be her full-time carer.

“Four years ago I suffered a ruptured bowel and had to have emergency surgery.

“I ended up spending five days in intensive care. The surgeon told me that I nearly died three times during the operation.

‘SO WEAK’

“I don’t leave the house very often because I’m so weak, I’m shaking all the time and I don’t sleep,” she says.

“Sometimes my hands shake so much I can’t even hold a glass of water to take my medication.

“I’ve gone from about 10.10 pounds to just under 7. I’m in constant pain. It never stops, I now have my third ostomy bag.”

Elaine is now pinning her hopes on a new specialist who has agreed to review her case and is expected to fly to London for an appointment later this month.

Her doctors also believe she may have developed a neurological condition called a functional neurological disorder – in which the brain doesn’t work quite as it should – which is being investigated.

“There has been talk of robotic surgery,” she says. “I really feel like this is my last hope.

“My daughters don’t know any different – I’ve been ill all their lives.

“When they were younger, some of the other kids used to tease them and ask why their mother is always on the sofa and tell them I’m going to die.

“Tony does everything for me; He has to help me with personal hygiene, showering and emptying my ostomy bag.

“Some days I really feel like I can’t take it anymore, but I’m a grandma now so that’s what keeps me going.

“I would give anything to have a more normal life.”

Elaine's husband Tony had to quit his job to become her full-time carer

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Elaine’s husband Tony had to quit his job to become her full-time carerPhoto credit: Elaine Doherty
Elaine's hopes for the future are high - it's her grandchildren, like grandson Jayden, who keep her going

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Elaine’s hopes for the future are high – it’s her grandchildren, like grandson Jayden, who keep her goingPhoto credit: Elaine Doherty

https://www.thesun.ie/health/8609534/woman-constipation-nightmare-condition/ Constipation is killing me – I had 3 cardiac arrests and vomited the contents of my bowels

Fry Electronics Team

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