A student has not had a single bite of food for 16 months after she suddenly developed an ultra-rare condition that causes her to vomit every time she eats.
Jessica Newman, 26, from Brighton, claims her last solid meal was chicken katsu curry in June last year.
After losing 2st (12.7kg) in just one month, doctors initially dismissed her weight loss as food poisoning and even questioned whether she may be anorexic.
But tests finally revealed the music student was suffering from multiple vascular compression syndrome, which affects just 500 people worldwide.
To stop her starving to death, Miss Newman was initially forced to carry a rucksack of nutritional fluid replacements, which fed her via a tube in her nose for 20 hours a day.
When the burden became to much to bear, Miss Newman had a line implanted into her chest that feeds calories and nutrition directly into a vein in her heart.
Miss Newman is due to undergo surgery in December and hopes to finally be able to enjoy a Christmas dinner with her family.
‘My first meal will be a whole bowl of pigs in blanket to myself,’ she said.
Jessica Newman has not had a single bite of food for 16 months after she suddenly developed an ultra-rare condition that causes her to vomit every time she eats. She is pictured shortly after having a line fitted in her chest that provides calories and nutrients into her heart last July
Pictured at her thinnest at just 7st 7lbs in September last year, Miss Newman used to have to carry a heavy rucksack filled with 1,500-calorie liquid food for 20 hours a day, which fed her via tube in her nose. Eventually, the burden of carrying it became too much to bear
Pictured with her boyfriend Steve Birkett, 24, before she became unwell, Miss Newman claims she misses eating more than anything and finds it difficult when Steve sits down for a meal
Miss Newman, who lives with her 24-year-old boyfriend Steve, said: ‘I miss food so much. Even when I’m not hungry I just crave nice food. I miss eating more than anything.
‘It’s been really hard for me but the longer I go without food the easier it becomes, but I always crave food.
‘It’s hardest when people are eating around me. When Steve sits down for meals I look at it longingly but I know I can’t have it.
‘But I don’t want people to feel bad when they have food around me. I’m fine with it but it has been hard for people to adjust.’
Out of everything, Miss Newman craves sweet treats most. ‘I miss chocolate more than anything. I have a sweet tooth,’ she said.
‘The last meal I can remember keeping down was a chicken katsu curry. It was absolutely incredible. Oh my god it was the best.’
Pictured before she got ill, Miss Newman describes her last meal – chicken katsu curry – as ‘incredible’. She suddenly started vomiting in summer 2017, which she thought was a bug
Miss Newman is pictured at Princes Grace Hospital in August. It was at this hospital she was diagnosed and fit with her first feeding tube which nourished her via her nose
WHAT IS VASCULAR COMPRESSION SYNDROME?
Vascular compression syndrome is a painful condition that occurs when the the blood vessels in the abdomen become compressed.
Symptoms can vary from nausea, dizziness and breathing difficulties to appetite loss, diarrhoea and fainting episodes.
Little is known about the condition’s cause or prevalence, but it is thought to affect around 500 people worldwide.
Research suggests it may be brought on by an abnormal position of the spine and pelvis.
In severe cases where patients are unable to keep food down and are at risk of starvation or dehydration, they may have to be fed via a tube.
Last summer, Miss Newman began vomiting at every meal while studying at the British Institute of Modern Music.
She initially thought she had a stomach bug, until she continued being sick for weeks.
Doctors were unsure how best to treat Miss Newman and recommended dietary changes, which did not help.
After going from 9st 7lbs down to just 7st 7lbs, she was eventually seen by a specialist consultant at The Princess Grace Hospital, London.
‘I just couldn’t keep any food down and it started to get serious. People started asking if I had an eating disorder but I knew I didn’t,’ Miss Newman said.
‘My consultant in London saved my life for sure. I was admitted for scans where they looked at the arteries in my stomach.’
Pictured at Princess Grace Hospital in May, a consultant eventually saw Miss Newman after her weight plummeted from 9st 7lbs to just 7st 7lbs. Medics initially thought she was anorexic
While at the hospital at the beginning of the year, scans confirmed her deadly diagnosis
While at The Princess Grace, Miss Newman was diagnosed with four syndromes that restrict her gut function.
These cause the arteries in her stomach to compress and pinch the walls of her intestine, leaving her at serious risk of starvation.
Doctors urgently fit Miss Newman with a feeding tube that ran from her nose into her stomach.
And, for eight weeks, she was fed by a backpack for more than 20 hours every day.
Miss Newman was forced to haul the heavy rucksack around with her, with it containing a litre of 1,500-calorie food replacements and nutritional fluids.
But eventually the burden became to much to bear. ‘It was so difficult to carry with me all day. I never really tolerated it well,’ she said.
‘Everything I did, I had to have it with me and I was very weak because I wasn’t eating. I was struggling so much and it started to get painful.’
Pictured at her thinnest in October last year, Miss Newman is awaiting surgery that will finally let her enjoy a meal again – and she hopes her first will be Christmas dinner with her family
Miss Newman’s fridge at home is dedicated to storing her food pouches
Doctors admitted Miss Newman to hospital in July where they performed major surgery to install a nutritional implant in her heart.
After spending around six weeks in hospital while her body adapted to this new way of absorbing food, she was discharged at the end of August.
Miss Newman is now fed 1,500 calories of nutritional fluids overnight via an IV line from a machine to her heart – to allow the nutrients to flow through her body quicker.
‘I still have a tube that people can see but it doesn’t bother me at all,’ she said.
‘The bag was uncomfortable and this is a lot easier. I’m just grateful that I have a way of getting the nutrition that I need. I could have died.’
Doctors are hoping to operate on Miss Newman in December so she can eat Christmas dinner.
‘That would be a dream come true’, she said. ‘But at this point, anything sounds good. I just miss everything.
‘Obviously one day I do hope to be back to normal. But this hasn’t stopped me from living a normal life.
‘For now my main goal is to be able to eat again without feeding tubes. If it does happen it will be the best day of my life.’