‘I was getting my hair done for a big night out when I nearly died due to gallstones’

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Birmingham mum Joana Hodgkiss has told how she developed ITU psychosis and her weight dropped dramatically when she developed gallstones

A mum from Birmingham "nearly died" after she developed gallstones - and her weight plummeted three stone in a matter of weeks.

Joanna Hodgkiss, 44, was healthy - walking 10,000 steps a day - before she suddenly developed an intense stomach ache. Doctors initially thought she had an ectopic pregnancy - but tests revealed she had  gallstones.

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But her recovery was far from straight forward - and her weight plummeted from 10st 1lb to 7st 5lb in two months. Joanna even needed a feeding tube to pump in 1,000 extra calories into her stomach overnight. The gallstones blocked the viaduct which caused sepsis, and she battled two bouts of deep vein thrombosis.

She even developed ITU psychosis - a disorder where patients experience serious psychiatric symptoms. At one point she was so unwell she thought the doctors and nurses had kidnapped her. Joanna, NHS manager, said she had no warning signs and is speaking out to urge others to get checked out if they feel any pain. She says doctors have no idea how she developed the condition.

Joanna's weight plummeted from 10st 1lb to 7st 5lb in two months when she got gallstonesJoanna's weight plummeted from 10st 1lb to 7st 5lb in two months when she got gallstones
Joanna's weight plummeted from 10st 1lb to 7st 5lb in two months when she got gallstones | Joanna Hodgkiss / SWNS

Joanne said: "My diet wasn't bad, I didn't particularly eat any fatty foods and I didn't drink to any excessive amount. I was walking 10,000 steps a day as a non negotiable. I was fit and kind of healthy - never in my life did I expect anything like this to happen.

"It was really scary.  One day I was getting my hair done for a big night out and then next I was attached to machines coming out on everything. I suppose at the beginning you don't really know where you are - then you kind of realise how ill you are. It's just so scary - the fact you almost died.

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"I was screaming in pain. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life. The impact of it now, but I still got a drain in. I've got a draw blood operation soon and I'm still not back to work and so the financial impact is huge. At one point my daughter was scared to be around me because I was so thin and kept vomiting everywhere and she didn't want to be around me."

Joanna said she felt "a strange sensation in my chest" while she attended a concert with her friends and family, including husband Olly, 54, and their eight-year-old daughter, on July 1, 2023. She added: "I had really bad stomach pains and said to my husband 'something is seriously not right'."

She called an ambulance and was blue-lighted from the venue to Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham where it was discovered she had gallstones blocking her bile duct. Joanne went straight into resus before heading to the ITU for a four week stay and lots of operations.

While in the ITU Joanna suffered from ITU psychosis - where patients become paranoid and hear voices. She could see things crawling up the walls and she thought the doctors and nurses had kidnapped her. "I thought the doctors and nurses had kidnapped me and I phoned my brother in the middle of the night to come and get me from hospital," she said.

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Joanna had to learn how to walk again due to the amount of time she spent in the ITU ward and the lack of feeling in her legs.  Joanna was finally able to go home in January 2024. She said: "My weight is pretty much back to normal now, so the weight is stabilised. I'm getting fitter every day but there is still lots I can't do. I've still got a drain in, so life isn't quite back to normal but it is still like 80%."

Joanna said her family got her through the whole experience and to where she is today. "I will always have the upmost thanks to the doctors and nurses for saving my life in the ITU," she added.

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