A law student’s weight plummeted to just 6st 6lbs due to a mysterious illness that left her in agonising pain every time she ate anything.
Chloe Hampton, 21, from west London, who started enduring hours of abdominal discomfort and nausea two years ago, was unable to keep food down, leaving her weak and in and out of hospital, searching for an explanation.
After years of suffering daily symptoms, Ms Hampton was eventually diagnosed with gastroparesis, which causes nerves in the stomach to stop working properly.
With no cure and doctors warning she would have a feeding tube fitted if she lost any more weight, Ms Hampton spent years living on a cocktail of drugs, eating just nutritional shakes, eggs and yoghurt.
Although far from her former self, Ms Hampton, who was initially forced to give up her studies, has recently seen her symptoms improve, with her weight climbing to 7st 5lbs.
She said: ‘Whether this trend will last and what it means is still uncertain, but I feel grateful for every single day when I get slots of time without pain.
‘I never would have predicted this is where I’d be at 21, but I’m proud of myself.’
Chloe Hampton’s weight fell to just 6st 6lbs after suffering agonising pain every time she ate
Ms Hampton was unable to keep food down after enduring abdominal pain and nausea
WHAT IS GASTROPARESIS?
Gastroparesis affects the normal movements of muscles in the stomach, preventing it from emptying properly.
It affects more than 1.5 million people in the US to some extent. Up to four per cent of people suffer in the UK.
Due to the condition affecting digestion, it can cause nausea and vomiting, as well as problems with people’s blood-sugar levels and receiving adequate nutrition.
Other symptoms may include:
- Feeling full after a few bites of food
- Acid reflux
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
Gastroparesis can occur as a complication of diabetes, or after surgery or an infection.
It is believed to be caused due to damage to a nerve that controls stomach muscles.
Certain medications, such as antidepressants or pain relievers, can slow gastric emptying and cause similar symptoms.
Complications can include severe dehydration from vomiting, malnutrition, a reduced quality of life and undigested food hardening in the stomach, which can be life threatening.
There is no cure.
Treatment focuses on dietary changes, such as eating smaller meals more frequently and chewing thoroughly.
Medications can help to ease nausea and vomiting.
Surgery to fit a feeding tube may be required if patients are unable to tolerate any food or liquids.
Source: Mayo Clinic
‘I lost 20% of my weight’
Ms Hampton was in her second year of studying maths at the University of Bristol when she started experiencing symptoms.
She was referred for standard tests including an endoscopy, an abdominal ultrasound and allergy examinations, with nothing showing up as abnormal.
Ms Hampton said: ‘The pain got worse and worse as time went on and three months later I was barely leaving the house.
‘I lived with friends I met from university and was too ill to join in with anything social.
‘By the time I went back home for summer I had lost almost 20 per cent of my body weight.
‘I was so weak and hadn’t had the energy to attend university for over a month.’
‘I was devastated but relieved to finally have an answer’
Speaking of her symptoms, Ms Hampton said: ‘I became terrified of eating, knowing every time I did it would guarantee six hours of nausea and pain.
‘The weight loss and fatigue meant I was permanently cold and would shake every time I went outdoors.
‘I was living on a diet of apple juice and cream crackers in a desperate attempt to keep my weight up.’
By this point, Ms Hampton had been rushed to hospital three times in as many weeks with crippling abdominal discomfort.
Shortly afterwards, she collapsed on her way to a consultant’s appointment and was admitted to hospital once again, where she underwent a fortnight of tests.
Four months after her original hospital admission, an MRI scan was finally carried out on Ms Hampton’s digestive system and she was diagnosed.
She said: ‘It was bittersweet because there is no cure.
‘The doctor explained that he believed it was the result of a virus that had damaged the nerves and muscles in my stomach.
‘The condition is so rare that he couldn’t tell me what to expect, some people will see an improvement over a decade whereas others will deteriorate and have to rely on a permanent feeding tube to survive.
‘I was devastated but relieved to finally have an answer.’
Ms Hampton spent months in and out of hospital searching for an explanation. She was forced to put her studies on hold due to her condition leaving her weak and permanently cold
‘I focused on getting through every day’
Ms Hampton was given strong painkillers, intended for epilepsy patients, as well as anti-vomiting drugs.
She said: ‘I was told that whilst I could keep my weight where it was, I could avoid a feeding tube, but any drop and I would have to have one inserted.
‘Every day for the next 12 months was agony; I had permanent stomach pain, nausea, dizziness and days where I would be so light headed I would lose my vision.
‘I didn’t have any solid food for months but fought everyday to keep my weight up.
‘My entire mind-set shifted; I stopped thinking about the future and focused on getting through every day, one day at a time.
She added: ‘I learned to accept the “new me” who couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink or go out with her friends – and couldn’t dream of being the same athletic person that ran a half marathon two months before falling ill.
‘I was grateful for not being on a tube but ready to accept that if I were then that would be okay too.’
‘I feel grateful for every single day’
Despite her struggles, Ms Hampton was able to join her family on holiday last September and can tolerate certain foods again, which has caused her weight to climb to 7st 5lbs.
She said: ‘I had cucumber sushi for the first time in two years and it felt amazing.
‘I even managed a bit of plain turkey on Christmas day, a far cry from last year where I couldn’t even make it out of bed to join my family at the table.
‘Whether this trend will last and what it means is still uncertain, but I feel grateful for every single day when I get slots of time without pain.’
Ms Hampton has since restarted her studies, this time choosing law, via a home learning course with BPP University.
She said: ‘It’s kind of a permanent thing – it’s not a matter of quickly recovering.
‘For now, I’m looking at short-term goals, it’s great to be studying again, it’s just nice to be thinking about something that isn’t my next hospital appointment.’