A college student took two bites of her Christmas dinner writhing in pain and was taken to hospital where she was told her organs were failing.
Now Lucy Harman, who has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, is helping others by sharing her story.
The 20-year-old from Chichester was a freshman in September 2020 when she noticed she was losing weight.
Afraid it could be a serious illness and desperate not to spend Christmas with her family, she kept silent despite losing four stone in 30 days.
Determined to be healthy enough to spend Christmas with her grandparents, Lucy just tried to move on.
However, on Christmas Day of that year, she was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a lifelong condition that causes parts of the digestive system to become inflamed.
“Because I skipped it for so long, I needed a feeding tube for six months to give my body a rest,” Lucy said.
Lucy recalls that one of the first symptoms was an inability to keep food down.
“I had really bad stomach pain and blood in my stool, and the symptoms just got worse over time,” she added.
Despite her worrying symptoms, Lucy told no one.
“I think I denied it,” she said. “I told myself it was because I ate poorly or was stressed about my studies.
“But deep down I was afraid it was serious, so I stuck my head in the sand. I was afraid, so I ignored it and hoped it would go away.”
Another sign that something was wrong was Lucy’s dramatic weight loss.
“I lost about four stones in 30 days, which was obviously very drastic, but since I wasn’t home, my family didn’t know at first,” she noted.
“When I came back to Southampton for the Christmas holidays, my mum said I looked a lot thinner. I have quite a round face, but you could see my cheekbones.
“But since I’ve been doing musical theater, I work out eight to 10 hours a day, so the weight loss was easy to explain.”
Lucy was afraid to go to the doctor because she wanted to spend time with her grandparents.
“It was the year we had to throw a Christmas party with another household and the plan was to spend it with my grandparents, whom I hadn’t seen properly for months due to the pandemic,” she said.
“I missed her so much and was so focused on seeing her that I didn’t want anything to ruin her.
“My family went into quarantine for two weeks before Christmas so that I could see my grandparents safely and I feared that going to the doctor and possibly the hospital would ruin my chances of spending the day with them.
I am also a self-confessed Christmas lover, decorating my apartment in October and watching every Christmas movie at least 20 times. My whole focus was on holding on until Christmas.
Lucy’s deteriorating health peaked on Christmas Day.
“That day I saw my grandparents and it felt like a huge relief, almost like my body was giving up at that point,” she said.
“I was very weak and when we sat down for our Christmas dinner my body was shaking. I had about two bites of my food before I passed out on the couch.
“I told my mother that I was not well. My whole body was shaking at the time and I was taken to the hospital that night.”
Lucy woke up in hospital on Boxing Day and was diagnosed with severe malnutrition and dehydration.
“It took them a long time to access my veins because they all shriveled up,” she explained.
“When they finally got to look at me, they told me that my organs were failing because they were under so much pressure that my intestines almost ruptured and my stomach wasn’t working properly.
“My whole body had basically given up at that point.”
Lucy spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s in hospital, where she was treated with steroids and immunosuppressants.
After an MRI scan, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
“To give my body a rest, I was put on a feeding tube for about six months before slowly eating normally again,” she said.
“But I have to stick to regular foods like rice and chicken so I don’t irritate my gut.”
After her diagnosis, Lucy started posting videos about her journey on TikTok, where she now has over a million likes on her page and nearly 5,000 followers.
She said: “In the beginning I made story videos about my life and my health issues, then I started making comedic videos about the subject.
“I’ve gotten a lot of nice comments from people dealing with similar things, but one comment that caught my attention was a guy who saw my videos and realized he had similar symptoms, so he got checked and found out he had colon cancer. had. .
Fortunately, it was treatable because it was caught early. It was great to hear that my videos helped him so much.”
To raise awareness of the condition, Lucy is partnering with Crohn’s & Colitis UK on their Cut the Crap campaign.
“The campaign is about helping people get an early diagnosis and preventing people from getting into the situation I was in,” she added.
“You can fill in a questionnaire about your complaints and get advice, but you can also email a letter to your GP. This would have been helpful to me as I was so scared and didn’t want to see a doctor so a pre-written letter would have really helped.
“I feel very lucky to be a part of this campaign and I want to do everything I can to break the stigma around gut feelings.
“Any change in your health, be it your gut or anything else, you need to be monitored, because prevention is better than cure.”
“Crohn’s disease can occur at any age, but an early diagnosis will help you get your life back on track.”
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