Issy’s story: “The British Liver Trust’s website is fantastic, and I’m really grateful to them”

After falling seriously ill following the birth of her daughter and spending months in hospital, Issy decided to walk 100 miles in aid of the British Liver Trust, raising more than £1,300. Thank you so much for your amazing support, Issy 

My daughter Otillie was born on March 28th, 2023. After having her I felt very uncomfortable and wasn’t sleeping well, but as she was my first baby I was unsure if it was my body adjusting. During the midwife’s home visit a day or two after Otillie was born, she pointed out that my ankles were quite swollen, but said it was nothing to worry about and it’s fairly common in new mums.

The swelling didn’t go down for about a week and, if anything, I was getting bigger and more bloated than I had been when fully pregnant.

Checks, blood tests and scans

I’m normally quite slim and fairly athletic, so felt there was something wrong. My first thoughts were that I hadn’t delivered my placenta correctly, however when revisiting the hospital, they checked this and took some blood. They said my liver enzymes were slightly elevated, however in postpartum women this is normal. After another week the swelling still hadn't reduced and I spoke with my mum and midwife that day and we were told to go straight into urgent care. It was horrendous. They were unclear what was going on, so I had lots of checks, bloods and scans, after about eight agonising hours they realised I had no flow into my liver, or out of my hepatic vein.

I was admitted into hospital that night, 14th April 2022, and never thought I’d spend the next two months as an impatient.

I remained in hospital for a week under constant monitoring until I could be transferred up to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. I was petrified. The QE did a venogram and biopsy and said they would place a stent in a few days later and I would be able to go home to my daughter and recover. Unfortunately this first attempt was unsuccessful. I was placed on IV antibiotics for the next couple of weeks until we tried again.

My sodium levels had dropped and I was transferred to ICU for 10 days

When my anaesthetist came to see me pre op, they informed me that my sodium levels were low and needed to come up to ensure it was safe to operate. It should take around 24 hours, then we could try again. Twenty-four hours later I wasn’t getting any better, my whole body was restless, my legs kept cramping, I was unable to eat and drink and when my husband came to see me, I was talking nonsense and very confused. My sodium levels had dropped to 113 and I was transferred into ICU for ten days. It was awful. By then I wasn’t fully aware of what was going on, but it was one scary thing after another. I slept a lot. My stomach kept swelling up and I was drained every couple of days, around 12L at a time. I was also being pumped full of sodium and my blood pressure dropped very low. I was put on a water restrict and only allowed 50ml every hour.

Mum sat by my bedside, which gave me great comfort.  

After 10 days they got my sodium levels up to a stable level and decided to have a go at the procedure again. This time it was successful, but the stent clotted over so I was back in ICU. I remember thinking ‘I don’t know how much more I can take of this’. I was very weak, and very sick.

The weeks without Otillie were horrendous, I don’t know how I got through it. I’d just given birth, but she couldn’t stay with me in hospital – it felt like she’d been taken away from me. Then I became so poorly that my brain shut that out to protect me. My husband would bring Ottie in, but I was so weak that I couldn’t hold her or feed her and she would just lay with me on the bed. I felt like I didn’t know who my own daughter was.

Life or death

The doctors managed to get my sodium levels back up (but still under normal limits) and said they would have to do the stent procedure again, it was a life or death thing. That was the scariest part. I remember going down to theatre and really thinking I would die, but I wasn’t afraid because I was so unwell that I became accepting of what was going on. Thankfully, that  procedure was successful, however I had bled during the procedure so they placed me on a ventilator and returned me to ICU. I woke up the next morning, very confused but my dad had driven up to be with me. I’m so very grateful to all the ICU nurses who let him sit with me after visiting had ended. I spent another week or so recovering before they transferred me back to ward 306.

I was in for another four weeks during which they did ultrasounds on my liver, ECGs, heart scans, endoscopies, and daily bloods. I had to learn to walk again, go up steps and use the bathroom. Mum and I would walk up and down the ward, I couldn’t believe aged 27 I was a shell of who I’d been. It was heart-breaking.

From now on I will have a yearly venogram and six monthly ultrasounds of liver

It was a slow process of building the muscle up again to get me ready to leave. I was discharged on 16th June, but still had to have bloods every two days, then every six weeks I would go up to Birmingham where they would weigh me, check that everything was going in the right direction and see which medications I could slowly come off. From now on I will have a yearly venogram and six-monthly ultrasounds of my liver. I’m also on warfarin for life.

My consultants had asked me about my lifestyle and family, but I had no predisposition to any clotting disorder and there was no family history of my condition. I’ve been advised not to have any more children, which I found immensely hard to deal with – I did a lot of crying. However, I’m very blessed to be here and have Otillie who’s my world. She saved me, I had to get home to be her mummy.

Forever blessed

Thank goodness for my incredible family. My mum, dad and husband who sat by my side, cried with me, cared for me when I was at my weakest and got me home. My mum was just incredible, she is such a fierce, strong mumma, I remember one day she wheeled me out of ICU to get us both a Mr Whippy – it was perfection. We moved in with them when I was first discharged and mum and dad helped bring Otillie up with myself and Dom. I was unable to get up and down the stairs, in and out the bath or even lift her when I first returned home.

After around two months living with mum and dad, we moved home to start our little family. I was scared, but I am slowly getting back into fitness now and very lucky that I have the best family and friends locally to help me when I need it.

One of my consultants, Matthew Armstrong, said the British Liver Trust is amazing and told me to check them out – the website is fantastic. I’m really grateful to the Trust and Birmingham, not only did the team there look after me, but also my Mum, Dad, Dom and, of course, our darling Otillie– we couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Back in September I walked 100 miles for the Trust– I could do it slowly and take Otillie and Jasp, our cocker spaniel with me. I raised £1,355, which was amazing and I’m very grateful for anyone who donated.

I am extremely grateful and will be forever blessed to be here today. I never take anything for granted anymore. Always tell the ones you love how much you love them, because no one really knows what’s around the corner.

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