A MUM-TO-BE diagnosed with the same pregnancy sickness condition as the Duchess of Cambridge has described how it almost killed her and her unborn child.
Three weeks into her pregnancy Joanne Pearson began vomiting up to 60 times a day.
She lost almost 25 per cent of her body weight in two weeks, spent six months in hospital and is now the only patient in the UK to take medication and food supplements through a tube that goes into her heart.
Now 35 weeks’ pregnant, she still cannot eat or drink anything without being sick, must take chemotherapy drugs to try to control her nausea, is tube fed and is often so exhausted she cannot get out of bed.
Joanne, 32, wants to raise awareness of her condition, hyperemesis gravidarum, to help other sufferers get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as they need it.
Every morning her mum, Shan, cleans the line and gives medication. Four hours later more drugs, fluids and anti-clotting liquids are taken and at teatime, anti-sickness and heartburn medication are taken. A three litre bag of nutrition fluid goes into the line overnight.
Her eyesight is affected and she has been off sick from her job as a Formula 1 head hunter for seven months.
Joanne, who has a 13-year-old son Harry, went to hospital after she began vomiting 60 times a day, not knowing she was pregnant. Medics believed she had a blood clot in her lung or pneumonia but tests found nothing.
She discovered she was pregnant as her condition worsened. After losing 3st 7lbs in 10 days she went to her doctor in desperation.
She said: “If it hadn’t been for my doctor, Joanne Hartwell at Undercliffe Surgery in Heckmondwike, I wouldn’t have been recognised as having the condition. I turned up in floods of tears and vomited all over her desk and on the wall. Nobody knows why it happens.”
Dr Hartwell said Joanne may have hyperemesis gravidarum, which she had never heard of.
She went to Pinderfields, where doctors said she was so dehydrated her kidneys had stopped functioning. She was hospitalised for four months and was so desperately ill she begged consultant John Jolly for a termination.
She said Mr Jolly had never seen such a severe case – but encouraged her to try different drugs until one worked.
She said: “At that point I couldn’t cope any more. My muscles had wasted away and I couldn’t even lift a cup.
“They put a feeding tube up my nose but I vomited it up. They tried lots of drugs; one paralysed me and I reacted really badly to steroids.
“In the end they put a line into my heart which pumps food and drugs round. It is normally only used for cancer patients but it is the only way they can keep nutrition in me. The treatment won’t stop the sickness but it gives me what I need to survive.
“Within two minutes of the birth the condition disappears but some women get ‘prisoner of war syndrome’. When prisoners left the camps they gorged on food and it killed them straight away, so I try to eat something small and soft every day that won’t hurt my throat when it comes back up.”
Researching the condition Joanne found a charity called the HER Foundation. She said because HG was not widely understood, women were often told they had morning sickness, and had to fight for treatment.
She said: “There is a huge difference between morning sickness and HG. It is so serious some women develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Through the charity we have been trying to raise awareness and get someone high profile to speak out. In the two days after the news about Kate the website had 5,000 hits, so it is great to finally have the recognition.
“When you can’t even brush your hair it must be horrible to be in the limelight. So many people say she is only in hospital because she’s royalty – but she is in hospital because she’s so ill.”
Joanne is still very poorly but is now looking forward to the birth – and her first meal in eight months.
She said: “Harry and I have discussed it. My first meal will be venison steak, mashed potatoes and spinach and a glass of cold champagne. I am such a foodie – I can’t wait!”