SIX years ago I was admitted to hospital on the verge of a coronary arrest (heart attack to us lay people). I was in my mid-30s, had no history of heart trouble, hadn't had an alcoholic drink for eight years, I was not overweight, never mind obese and, although I smoked, a pack of 20 would last me a week.
Three months earlier, I was in the whole of my health and now I was skeletal, malnourished, severely dehydrated, bedridden, mentally and physically incapable and feeling on the verge of death.
I wasn't sick as such – although I have never been as ill in my entire life. I was pregnant.
The most natural thing in the world, the thing that I was biologically designed to do, had turned me from a normal, very independent woman, into a helpless wreck. Instead of common or garden 'morning sickness', I had the same condition hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) that the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, was hospitalised with. Hyperemesis gravidarum roughly translated means 'severe morning sickness'. As descriptions go, that one is utterly useless.
I have nothing but sympathy for poor Kate, because HG isn't that simple. For the first three months of my pregnancy I couldn't eat anything. In retrospect, I'm amazed that I managed to survive at all given the only form of calories I took in were small sips of 7Up (which usually didn't stay down). Despite not eating, I was violently sick throughout the day. The usual upside of vomiting is that it abates nausea, but with HG the nausea gets worse. I tried every remedy from ginger to pressure bands to prescribed medication, but nothing worked.
At the end of my first trimester, instead of being the glowing, radiant mama-to-be, I looked like someone in the final days of a hunger strike. Not that I cared; I didn't really care about much at that point because after three months of acute nausea and persistent vomiting I wanted to stop feeling so dreadful.
When the doctor told me that my heart could give out at any second, because my potassium levels were so depleted, I was so worn out by the relentless nature of my 'condition' that my only thought was that at least the nausea would cease. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I didn't care if I died or ended up in a permanent vegetative state, I was too exhausted to be scared and at least I would experience some relief from the prison of illness my body had become. In the same way that I'd mentally given up the fight, my body was starting to break down. That morning I'd woken up in a pool of blood and assumed I was miscarrying. Thankfully I wasn't, but the bleeding continued for the whole week that I was confined to hospital.
When I was admitted to hospital I was being violently ill approximately every 20 minutes and basically throwing up my stomach lining.
The following day the doctors suggested steroids – all I knew about them was that they are often abused by body builders and cause 'roid rage'.
I was sure that something that could make a grown man go off his nut couldn't be good for me or my baby, but the doctors assured me it would be fine.
They were a last resort and they worked in that they brought the vomiting under control and curtailed the nausea enough to allow me to eat.
I suffered with persistent nausea and frequent vomiting for the remainder of my pregnancy. My beautiful son was born two weeks past his due date, weighing 8lb 7oz and unaffected by the fact that I hadn't eaten for the first three months of his existence. About an hour after his birth I suddenly felt 'normal' – and boy was I hungry.
Anne Marie Scanlon