Mother-of-one left unable to eat for FOUR YEARS after pregnancy paralyses her stomachDoctors said Charlene's son may have de-sensitised the nerve that supplies nerve function to the intestines when he was in the wombCharlene is now drip fed for 14 hours every day
Daily Mail Reporter
09:09 GMT, 20 August 2012
09:10 GMT, 20 August 2012
A mother-of-one has been unable to eat for four years after her pregnancy left her with a paralysed stomach.
Charlene Johnstone developed gastroparesis when she fell pregnant with her son, Hayden, now three – and hasn't been able to eat since.
The illness caused Charlene, 24, from Glasgow, to shrink from a healthy size 12 to a gaunt size 6 after being sick 15 times a day.
Suffering: Charlene's weight plummeted and doctors originally thought she had pregnancy complications, before diagnosing her with gastroparesis after her son Hayden was born
Since her baby was born, Charlene has spent 14 hours a day attached to a drip, which she is fed through.
Ms Johnstone said: 'I was initially told I was suffering complications from pregnancy. I had what I thought was severe morning sickness, lasting all day every day.
'It didn't go away after the first trimester, but I still thought it was pregnancy-related because I was fit and healthy before. I just thought I was unlucky.
'When I was officially diagnosed with stomach paralysis, I was told it could have been caused by the weight of the baby and the size of my miniscule bump.
'They thought I was having a small baby, so I went two weeks overdue and was induced, but when Hayden was born he was 10lb.
'Doctors thought he'd been sitting so internally and being so large he'd probably de-sensitised the nerve that supplies nerve function to the intestines.'
Now out of hospital, Charlene is attached to a machine and drip fed 14 hours a day.
Charlene with her mother Liz and her son Hayden. Her mother spoke to consultants and their MP to get funding for a 'stomach pacemaker'
Struggle: Charlene, pictured in hospital, could eat for seven months after she was fitted with a pacemaker, but she has now developed intestinal failure, meaning she can't empty food
She said: 'I used to love chicken fajitas and homemade soup. I enjoyed chips with cheese and doner meat with salad cream.
'But because my stomach doesn't move, I don't get the empty feeling so I don't get hunger pangs anymore which is good.'
When she discovered she was expecting, the former bouncer quit her job as the potential for injury was high.
Charlene said: 'It turns out I didn't really have a choice, as I was in and out of hospital for the full nine months.
'I was so unwell that I found having a shower completely exhausting. I was advised to do as little as possible to allow my baby to develop.'
At 42 weeks, Charlene gave birth to healthy baby boy, but after having Hayden her health rapidly began to deteriorate.
Over the next few years baffled doctors explored everything. After being referred to a specialist she was diagnosed with severe gastroparesis.
The condition reduces the ability of the stomach to empty its contents even though there is no blockage. The cause of it is unknown, but medics believe it could be triggered by a disruption of nerve signals to the stomach.
She said: 'All I wanted was to go home and spend time with my baby but I wasn't well enough.
'I was so weak I couldn't even lift Hayden without collapsing and struggled to carry out his night feeds.'
My little soldier: Charlene said her son Hayden kept her going
By March 2009 Charlene couldn't keep anything down, her weight plummeted to just five stone and she became dangerously ill.
She was rushed to the high dependency unit and underwent three blood transfusions after suffering abdominal pain and coughing up blood.
After seven months in hospital, her weight slowly crept back up and she was discharged.
She said: 'My son was almost one and I had hardly been there, I felt so guilty.'
Doctors even tried a highly experimental botox procedure, to try and relax the stomach muscles and allow food to move to the small intestine, but it didn't work.
A temporary gastric pacemaker, in February 2010, proved successful and Charlene was eager for the permanent version.
She said: 'It was heart-breaking to have the pacemaker removed after five days. My energy levels zapped back to zero and I was constantly vomiting again.'
Although she was eligible for a permanent one, funding wasn't available.
She said: 'The thought of another year like the last filled me with dread. The operation would cost 22,250. But my mum, Liz, 50, didn't give up and spoke to consultants and MPs until it was funded. I had it done in March 2010.'
'I was able to tolerate oral foods for almost eight months until my bowel failed.
'Intestinal failure is the final outcome. Nothing can be done at that stage, but with help from my consultant, Doctor Matthew Priest, at Gartnavel General Hospital, I can manage the symptoms.'
'My ward are so supportive and when I'm ill they help me fight to get better. They're like a second family. The ward is so busy they don't get enough praise for what they do.
'Hayden has been my wee soldier. There are times when I'm very poorly and I want to give up but then I think of what my wee granny said, 'If you ever feel like giving up, then think about why you held on so long in the first place' and that reason is Hayden.'