A teenage girl endured years of agony after doctors failed to spot that she was suffering from a rare illness.
Stacey Morrow, 16, started to suffer from bouts of violent vomiting when she was just four. But her mum, Sarah, 46, and dad, Robert 50, thought she had simply gone down with a stomach bug. It wasn’t until she was ill more frequently that the family from Larkhall in Lanarkshire became really worried. Stacey was taken to hospital time and time again but doctors were unable to do much else apart from stopping her from dehydrating.
Nobody realised she was suffering from Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, CVS. The rare condition is hard to recognise, as the only common symptom sufferers have is constant sickness and nausea. Because there are no methods to test for CVS, doctors believed that Stacey was making herself ill. Then just 10 years old, she was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Yorkhill Sick Children’s Hospital in Glasgow. Sarah, who lost her job in a clothing factory because she had to care for her only child, said: “Stacey became withdrawn and wouldn’t talk. We eventually found out that it was because sufferers will do anything to stop feeling sick – even stop speaking. Stacey spent a year and a half in psychiatric and medical wards. It was heartbreaking. She really thought she was going to die and it was terrible for us because we were unable to help. On the eve of her 12th birthday a psychologist who came to visit Stacey at home brought a magazine with a story about CVS. The youngster was diagnosed within weeks. Sarah said: “Stacey is now on an antihistamine called Periactin and it seems to help. She has not vomited for a year. But it is still quite hard because it could start up again at any time.”
This article appeared in the Daily Record on Friday April 11th 2003. It is reprinted here by kind permission of Tom Hamilton, News Editor and Paula Murray, Reporter. We should like to thank them for highlighting our cause in Scotland and raising awareness of the condition.
Stacey Morrow shared her story with us a year ago in the issue No 23. She again helped us raise awareness of CVS when she was interviewed by Devinder Bains and her story featured in the April 2004 edition of Bliss magazine.
She tells how ever since she could remember she’d felt queasy and threw up regularly. Visits to the GP were unhelpful, “They’d ask Mum whether I was eating properly, then if I was making myself sick to bunk off school.” She explained, “The thought of being sick at school terrified me. Once I was staring at the blackboard as the nausea washed over me. Suddenly vomit flew everywhere. ‘You’re disgusting.’ someone shouted. Nobody came to the rescue not even the teacher.”
Things became worse, she was sick up to 20 times a day and was sent to the hospital for tests and underwent brain scans and blood tests. “That was bad enough but it was going to get worse”. They sent her to a psychiatric unit. “I was horrified. I wasn’t crazy – I didn’t belong there! They said my problem was psychological – but I knew it was purely physical.” She was put on a drip but hated having it reinserted over and over again and would lie awake at night panicking about it. She felt trapped in a hospital full of psychiatric patients. Eventually after a year and a half in the unit she was allowed home and enrolled at a special school. A psychiatrist visited regularly. On one of these visits he showed her an article he had found about an Australian boy with CVS. “He couldn’t eat, drink or even swallow his saliva. I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t a freak; there was someone else out there just like me!”
As a result of this article she went back to her GP and tried new medications and after trial and error was put on a drug called periactin. “That was 18 months ago now and I still haven’t been sick. I’ve never felt healthier. I’m back at school, catching up the years I lost.”
Sarah’s mum wrote in the summer (2004), “Stacey is doing really well. I have been getting a lot of phone calls and Stacey’s story has also been printed in an Australian magazine called Surf Girl.”