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addisons.org.uk Thursday, 05. February 2009 18:00:41

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So close to dying

By:  Tracy  Sunday 14 September 2008

Tracy was very ill with the classic symptoms of Addison's disease.  Despite this, her local hospital sent her home in the belief that she had "a dietary problem".  Tracy's story is a reminder that Addison's disease remains rare enough to be easily overlooked by general medical practitioners, until it is severely advanced.

 

It was like a scene from a horror movie.  I was doubling up, retching blood, in the Accident and Emergency department.  I was 31, crying and terrified.  The blood was from my gullet.  I had vomited so hard I had ruptured it.  I was put on a drip and admitted to hospital.

They kept me in for a week, with six different drips over the week.  I filled many kidney bowls!  My Mum looked after my five-year old daughter, Sky, while I was in hospital.  I am a single mother and I missed my little girl like mad.

I had lost over a stone in weight before I went in to hospital in September 2006, and although I was beginning to feel better by the time they discharged me, the weight was still falling off.  I had further doctor’s appointments and many more blood tests.  These found nothing. By now I was passing out frequently and couldn’t get out of bed before 10am.  I felt so weak, my body ached. I had no energy and no appetite.  The blood tests said normal – but I felt so awful!

I spent Christmas 2006  being sick and then in the new year, got on the train to start my new job in London.  It was a 90-minute commute each way.  (Looking back, I cannot believe I had got through the interview in the autumn.  I was sick before and after the interview with the CEO). So halfway into London, I felt like I was about to vomit on the train.  I had the decency to get off and promptly passed out at the station.  What a great start to a new job.  They put me in an ambulance to the nearest hospital, which unfortunately is an hour from my home.  Again, many blood tests, and a drip for dehydration. 

The hospital discharged me the next day, telling me I should instruct my doctor to test my pituitary gland.  But my GP said, that’s not necessary – before I had even got through his door – and signed me off work for two weeks saying he wanted to see the results from an endoscopy.  He thought it was a slow bleeding ulcer, not an endocrine problem.

A week later I was feeling so bad I was readmitted to my local hospital, still losing weight, now down to six and a half stone from my usual nine.  More drips, more blood tests.  But the consultant now thought it was a dietary problem and not a medical one. So he tested for coeliac disease.  He also tested my kidneys, because my skin had gone so brown.  As an afterthought, on the last day I was in, he tested for Addison’s, but assured me this was unlikely. I’d had about 12 blood tests by now.  I was so dehydrated and my blood pressure so low that my veins were closing and tiny.  I had massive bruises from the needles. They injected me with an artificial hormone to see if my body produced any steroids naturally and then did two further blood tests each a half hour apart.  I later found out this is called a Synacthen test.

They sent me home the next day saying the Synacthen test is very expensive so the samples wouldn’t be processed till the Monday. I could see the consultant was really losing interest, now that he had decided it was a dietary problem not a medical one. He prescribed a fat supplement.  My blood pressure was so low – 73/35 – that I literally crawled out of the ward.  The nurses offered me a wheelchair.  I politely told them to stick it.

continues...
 

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