I was too busy to see a GP – now my kidneys are scarred for ever
22:01 GMT, 10 March 2012
As matron of honour at her best friend’s wedding, the last thing Cherry Healey wanted to do was let the bride down.
But as she followed her up the aisle, her smile firmly fixed, the TV presenter knew something was dreadfully wrong.
Her head was pounding so fiercely that the occasion three years ago passed in a blur. A day later she was in hospital.
Cherry Healy had a bacterial infection in her kidney. Known as pyelonephritis, it affects one in 830 people a year
‘I’d been busy working so I was a bit run-down and thought I was developing a migraine. I was taking ibuprofen but nothing was working,’ says Cherry.
‘I could barely focus on talking, let alone do anything useful for the bride.
'I didn’t touch any food. I was shivering uncontrollably and obviously had a fever.
‘Before the speeches, I staggered up to the bride’s bedroom to lie down, but when my husband Roly found me half an hour later we decided to head home to London.
'/03/10/article-2112965-121C2564000005DC-333_233x423.jpg” width=”233″ height=”423″ alt=”Usually, cystitis clears up after a few days but in severe cases a GP may prescribe antibiotics” class=”blkBorder” />
Usually, cystitis clears up after a few days but in severe cases a GP may prescribe antibiotics
Within hours of receiving treatment, Cherry, who lives near Shepherd’s Bush, West London, with business consultant Roly, 32, was feeling better.
Looking back, she realises her symptoms started in the week before the wedding when she developed cystitis.
A common infection of the bladder, it can affect men and women but is ten times more common in women as they have a shorter urethra, making it easier for bacteria to get in.
Usually, cystitis clears up after a few days but in severe cases a GP may prescribe antibiotics.
In just under five per cent of cases, the infection travels up the urinary tract, leading to a kidney infection, as in Cherry’s case.
She says: ‘I’d been working on a BBC documentary with early starts and late finishes, so I was feeling tired.’
Too busy to see her GP and assuming it wasn’t serious, Cherry thought drinking lots of cranberry juice would clear it up.
For years, it’s been a common belief that the juice helps with urinary tract infections, but some newer research indicates it may not reduce the incidence of infection, and could even make the urine more acidic, exacerbating symptoms.
Two weeks after being released, Cherry returned to hospital for a final check-up.
Because of the severity of her infection, her kidney is scarred, which makes her more susceptible to further infections.
Professor Neil Turner, consultant nephrologist at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, says developing a fever with simple cystitis is unusual and a sign an infection has spread to the kidneys.
He says pyelonephritis is associated with vesicoureteral reflux, a condition where urine flows back from the bladder to the kidneys.
For those who suffer recurrent kidney infections, antibiotics may be prescribed at the first sign of cystitis. Doctors also advise those who are prone to stay well-hydrated.
‘They should drink plenty of liquids to wash bacteria from the bladder and urinary tract,’ says Prof Turner.
Some patients may benefit from an increased fibre intake as constipation can also trigger the problem.
Cherry says: ‘I now avoid doing too much because being run-down can make you more liable to infection.
'I try to eat well and stay well-hydrated. I’ll never ignore cystitis again.’