Crohn’s patient ‘vomits 30 times a day’ and has cardiac arrests
A young mother needs life-saving surgery after being reduced to less than six stone by a crippling illness.
Jessica Elliott, 25, suffers from an extreme form of Crohn’s disease meaning she vomits dozens of times a day.
In this year alone she has had three cardiac arrests and had to be revived using a defibrillator.
Her family have launched an appeal to raise money for a pioneering operation and have so far raised £15,000 of their £20,000 target.
Miss Elliott was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation of the bowel, in 2013.
In 2016 her symptoms worsened and she began to lose weight at an uncontrollable rate.
The young mother, who grew up in Langport in Somerset, but now lives in Southampton, was eventually unable to keep down any food or liquids, no matter how little she ate or drank, or how slowly she did so.
“My days are pretty bleak. I still have to try and eat and drink so I take supplement drinks along with my food,” she said.
“My calorie intake is something like 4,000 a day but I can’t put any weight on.
“When you vomit as much as I do you, you lose potassium and that’s what will bring this all to an end.”
Miss Elliott is 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall and now weighs just 5st 7lb (35kg). The potassium levels in her body drop so low that her heart cannot beat properly.
She suffered her first cardiac arrest in January this year and has had two more since and on the most recent occasion her heart had to be restarted with a defibrillator.
“It wasn’t very pleasant to hear about afterwards,” she said.
Miss Elliott’s condition has seen her hospitalised nine times this year. After one of the serious incidents she was put into an induced coma to minimise the risk of brain damage.
‘Worst kind of pain’
Miss Elliott’s fiancé, Josh Tarrant, said a normal day would see her vomit more than 30 times, bleed, become dehydrated and experience severe muscle cramps.
“Imagine a cramp in your whole body – toes, jaw, hands, shoulders,” he said.
“It is honestly the worst kind of pain I have ever witnessed.”
Alongside Crohn’s disease Miss Elliott, who has a son Alfred, aged five, also has upper intestinal failure, which means her body rejects food and liquid as a foreign body, complicating her condition.
Her treatment has included regular hospital admissions and total parental nutrition – which sees liquid nutrition supplied directly into the patient’s bloodstream.
“It’s all pretty harrowing,” said Miss Elliot.
“I’m not the only person in the world like this but it is very rare for it to be this extreme.”
Ruth Wakeman, Director at Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said no two cases of the condition were the same.
“People living with Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis can face a lifetime of medication, and in many cases, major surgery, whilst some people only experience mild symptoms.
“An individual’s symptoms and their severity can change over time. Jessica’s story is very complex.”
In desperation Miss Elliott’s family put out an appeal on Facebook asking if anyone knew of potential treatments for her severe form of Crohn’s.
She was recommended to try a clinic in the German city of Karlsruhe.
Experts there claimed they would be able to use technology to investigate her case in a more in-depth way than has been possible in the UK.
They have offered her surgery that could counteract her vomiting. The specialist procedure would involve extending her oesophagus and tying it round the stomach. But the cost of the diagnostic tests alone would be £10,000.
The Elliott family have been pinning their hopes on the operation being able to give Miss Elliott’s body a chance to recover, buying her time ahead of a possible trip to the USA to take part in a new drug trial.
“I know I’m fighting a losing battle,” said Miss Elliot. “I need something; I need it to work.”