Young mum's torment over chronic bowel disease that has made her life a nightmare
A single mum has told of the challenges of coping with a bowel disease that leaves her writhing in agony and running to the toilet 30 times a day.
Jenny Davidson is only 33 but faces spending the rest of her life with a colostomy bag as doctors struggle to bring her ulcerative colitis under control.
The condition, which is a form of inflammatory bowel disease, affects the rectum and bowel with symptoms including diarrhoea, severe fatigue, anaemia and dramatic weight loss.
It is a life-long and potentially life-threatening condition.
Jenny, mum to eight-year-old Cadan, is so badly affected that she even struggles to get her son to and from school.
The medication she is taking for the gruelling condition is failing to control her symptoms and doctors have warned her she may have to undergo surgery to have her rectum removed.
"It's such a difficult condition to live with," said the Antrim woman. "I have good periods and bad times and when it is bad, it is terrible.
"I could be up running to the toilet 20 times in the night, I can't go out of the house at all so simple things like taking my son to school are impossible.
"It really gets you down and now I may have to have surgery, which is a lot to take on board, because I will have a colostomy bag for life.
"I've been with my boyfriend for a year now and he is really supportive and he just wants us to have a normal life, but I worry about how he will cope if I end up with a bag. It's hard enough for me to get my head around it."
Jenny was diagnosed in 2013 - about a year after she started to experience symptoms.
Her condition deteriorated until she went to her GP, who sent her straight to the A&E at Antrim Area Hospital.
"I had been putting it down to eating dodgy food but it was getting worse and worse," she said.
"By the time I went to the doctor I had lost about a stone in weight, I was malnourished as my body wasn't functioning.
"I looked horrendous, I was exhausted, I was very emotional about it all, I couldn't cope.
"My heart rate was up, my blood pressure was up, I had a fever, the doctor was worried I had a perforation in my bowel."
Since she was diagnosed Jenny has been admitted to hospital on five separate occasions.
She spent Christmas 2014 in hospital and celebrated 2015 as an inpatient. "I was admitted on Christmas Eve, which was the worst admission ever," she said.
"I had to leave my parents to do Santa and I wasn't able to be with my wee Cadan and see his face on Christmas morning.
"Basically, I have to be really sick before I will take myself down to hospital, I have to be lying on the floor and not able to move, feeling like my stomach will explode.
"The doctors and nurses shout at me for leaving it so long but I can't just go in to hospital, I need to be at home with my wee boy."
The part-time legal secretary said one of the most difficult aspects was the lack of public awareness and understanding.
"People don't realise how much it takes over your life," Jenny said. "My medication isn't really working, there is only one other drug to try on me and if that doesn't work I will have to have my rectum removed."
Crohn's & Colitis UK is hosting an information talk for IBD patients at Dunsilly Hotel in Antrim tomorrow at 7.30pm.
For more information about the event or the charity, log on to www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/ni or ring 0845 130 6819