A few weeks back I started to feel a strange sensation. With every gulp of tea, or swallow of a hot meal ; I felt an overwhelming burning in my chest, right behind my breast bone.
I put up with it for a few more days. Without noticing, a week had gone by during a chaotic period at work and the burning stuck with me like an aggressive splinter. It seemed to be getting worse each day and I was even struggling to swallow my morning cuppa – which is a dire situation at the best of times.
One Friday evening I got home from work, exhausted, and by this point was in full throes of a flare up, so just making it through the working week felt like such a victory and I was just about ready to pass out. But the burning seemed to be rising in my chest, up my throat and between my shoulder blades. While Aimee drifted off to sleep I sat bolt upright in bed knowing this felt wrong and began to worry.
After some late night Dr Google self-diagnosing I started to get agitated, wondering if I had developed that rare form of Crohn’s that is listed on every leaflet, wiki, advise page – and is somehow unspoken, rare and terrifying. What if my Crohns was spreading along my oesophagus, into my upper digestive tract?
Without further hesitation I rang NHS 111 for advice. The lady on the other line listened to my description and despite making it clear that ”I have Crohn’s” and it feels like a digestive sort of burning – she sent an ambulance for me. It arrived flashing outside immediately and the paramedic came up to my flat, into my room and we chatted while I sat on the bed, feeling like THE Princess and the pea. He explained that any signs of chest pain have to be checked out as a matter of urgency and I shouldn’t feel like I am wasting anyones time. And actually, who was I really to disagree, with both my dad and my maternal Grandpa suffering from heart conditions.
He took me inside the beepy ambulance and stuck pads on my chest to perform an ECG, to reveal very chirpily that I was not currently having a heart attack. He checked out my blood pressure, which seemed a little low, and insisted I come to A&E for a definitive check over as if nothing else I looked pale and anaemic – which no doubt I was after all the blood I had been passing in the bathroom. I politely declined his offer of a ‘free ride to the hospital’. As any experienced Crohnie knows, it’s a bad idea to admitted or seen once it turns weekend o’clock, least of all in A&E on a Friday night as the booze related incidents roll in and the skeleton staff of doctors drift about the place. He agreed that is was likely to be a gastric pain, and suggested I tell my consultant, who I was seeing the following week in clinic.
After a few prudent chews of Gaviscon and some painkillers, I fell asleep in my own bed.
Sure enough, my consultant took the whole episode pretty seriously and booked me in for an endoscopy. Within a few weeks I have having a camera shoved down my throat to reveal I had something called a hiatus hernia. This is apparently very common, particularly among the usual suspects of hernias; older people etc. But also for Crohns sufferers, particularly those who have dabbled in prednisilone. I sure had. So here I was, with yet another diagnosis to add to my CV. But I felt relieved to have it, because as long as my Crohns only lurked in my small bowel and no place else – I could sleep soundly again.