Are you really Lactose or Gluten Intolerant?

Are you sure? I was convinced I was, instead I ended up fighting for my life.

I guess it started around eight years ago (2006) when my then girlfriend and now wife noted that after consuming dairy products I became bloated, experienced abdominal pain, gas, wind and diarrhoea.

It worsened in 2010 when it seemed bread was also a problem.

As the symptoms worsened I went to my doctors and they suggested keeping a food diary to monitor the problem and to identify problem foods. In late 2011 convinced I was coeliac I went for a test… but the results disagreed and the conclusion was that I was suffering from IBS with an intolerance to Lactose and Gluten. However after a while I noticed something quite alarming: Occasionally I could eat without problems!

“I wish I’d pushed all of my doctors more because less than a month later I was in intensive care fighting for my life.”

In 2013 my “intolerance” took a nasty turn. What had been mild gas (Burping) became physically unbearable and the only way to relieve the pain was to vomit. Yet I was in so much pain I couldn’t make myself vomit… instead I had to wait until my stomach could cope no more and would simply “ejected” it’s contents. Unfortunately every-time this happened and by sheer coincidence alone i’d also recently eaten tomatoes. There is some evidence that tomatoes can cause problems for some people but not with the violent symptoms I had. I visited my then Doctor and she said it was possible I had an intolerance to tomatoes, I wish i’d pushed her more. I wish I’d been clearer about the violent nature of the pain and vomiting… I was one very simple test away from the truth

I wish I’d pushed all of my doctors more because less than a month later I was in intensive care fighting for my life.

It was a lovely sunny July morning and I’d been to a local farm shop and tearoom with my wife and three month old baby son, I’d treated myself to a less than healthy organic sausage sandwhich. An hour later and I was stripped naked and in indescribable pain, vomiting into a bucket. I don’t remember removing my clothes. but I do recall being very hot and then very cold, and then very hot again.

“we need to tread carefully, we’ve lost too many like him recently”

I recall speaking and joking with the paramedics… at one point I almost didn’t go to hospital because the pain momentarily vanished. But I did go and was taken to A&E department at Nottingham University Hospitals Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham (In the USA you might know A&E as ER) the vomiting increased and seemingly would not stop, it didn’t seem possible that I could have so much fluid in my body and when the strange brown specks that looked like freeze dried coffee that the nurses told me was blood appeared I realised I didn’t! The last thing I remember before being quickly whisked away to intensive care was reaching out to hold my baby sons little leg: so tiny, perfect and unaware of the troubles around him. I was unconscious when a doctor told my wife “we need to tread carefully, we’ve lost too many like him recently”

I have vague memories of an ultrasound being taken, I remember nurses pleading with me to relax and try not to vomit. I recall a hushed conversation between a doctor and a nurse about my amylase count being higher than anything they’d seen before. I don’t really recall all of the tubes going in and thankfully I don’t recall the pain – they tell me that often when the pain is that bad you just don’t remember, I’m also fortunate that it wasn’t long before I was hooked up to morphine. But this was only the start.

“It’s Pancreatitis” the doctor told me. I don’t recall anything of that day other than this short conversation in which I was asked if I drank alcohol. “rarely”, I replied. “The ultrasound also showed you don’t have gallstones, the only other causes of Pancreatitis are alcohol and very rarely medication.” I’d had perhaps 5 units of Alcohol from January to July. The doctors agreed it wasn’t alcohol. It had to be one of my medications.

I don’t recall the pain or the screaming, but my wife assures me: I did scream.

I knew from school biology that my pancreas had something to do with creating digestive enzymes. I also knew Pancreatitis could be bad and would possibly involve surgery. And then darkness came, I either fell to sleep, passed out or my memory fades because my brain protects me from the pain. As I said before they tell me it’s common for your brain to protect you from these things. I don’t recall the pain or the screaming but my wife assures me: I did scream.

My memory of the next few days is very hazy, the pain and the morphine meant my brain was creating all kinds of stories to protect itself. I had moments of clarity followed by hazy memories. When you are conscious you quickly become aware that Intensive Care is a very noisy place. The machines are noisy, they beep and buzz and ring. The doctors and nurses are noisy, the very few visitors are also noisy… the patients however are quiet. They’re generally either unconscious or very heavily sedated or hazy from strong medication.* You don’t really think it can get any noiser, but it can: The buzzing and beeping becomes intense, it’s followed by shouts, calls and the noise of a very highly skilled hard working team of professionals who are not paid nearly enough. On a number of occasions the noise ended in tears and a look in the eyes of the doctors and nurses that I won’t ever forget. These moments always seemed to be very clear in my memory.

It wouldn’t be long before I was diagnosed with Severe Acute Necrotising Pancreatitis: I’d have to fight for my life not once but twice, undergo two surgical procedures and face feeding through a tube in my nose or stomach for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t see my son until he was almost a month older and i’d still be in hospital four and a half months later.

I really was not Lactose or Gluten intolerant and Tomatoes were definitely not the problem!

If you’d like to read the full story please read on in this and future posts!

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