By Jos Weale
A fraud analyst claims she was wrongly branded anorexic and made to feel a liar by doctors because she vomited 60 times a day – only for them to discover she had stomach paralysis.
Hannah Leffler shed more than two stone, dropping from a healthy size 10 to wearing children’s aged 10 to 11 clothes, after she began suffering from gastroparesis in 2014.
But the 26-year-old claims she was made to feel like a liar when doctors who were certain she had an eating disorder subjected her to 12 months of examinations – watching her while she slept and even MEASURING her vomit – before she was eventually diagnosed at a different hospital in 2015.
Hannah, who requires a feeding tube for up to 20 hours a day, now claims the NHS is ‘putting her life on hold’ again after her bid for a life-changing stomach pacemaker was turned down.
Hannah, from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, said: “When I got ill I was nauseous and vomiting and had stomach pains. At first I just thought I had a bug, but it got so bad that I went to hospital.
“At first doctors told me it was period pains. Then they told me it was constipation.
“I was being sick in the toilet, and the doctors took my mum to the side and told her they thought I was anorexic.
“I’ve never had a problem with food, I love food, and we both told them I wasn’t making myself sick – but they still kept monitoring me thinking I was hiding making myself sick.
“The amount I was being sick was really painful and I was dehydrated.
“When I was in hospital I had to be sick in a bowl, I wasn’t allowed to be sick in a toilet, and the doctors were measuring the amount I vomited.
“They still seemed sure that I was making myself sick. One night I’d been dosed up with painkillers and I woke up in the night and saw a nurse just sat at the end of my bed watching me with a laptop.
“In the morning one of the nurses on the ward said that she’d been there all night watching me.
“It really upset me. I knew how ill I felt and I wasn’t making myself sick.
“I felt like they thought I was lying about not being able to keep anything down. I just felt they were treating me like a child and believed I was making it up for attention.
“They just gave me a jug of water and told me to drink it and go home and I’d be fine, even when I was still being sick in the hospital.”
Hannah said after she first began vomiting in April 2014 this continued daily, meaning she was forced to visit the Countess of Chester Hospital six times over the next year.
She claims each time doctors suspected her of having an eating disorder despite her protests.
On one occasion, when she was admitted for five weeks in May 2015, she claims a nurse even sat and watched her while she slept to ‘catch her’ making herself vomit.
But in June 2015 she collapsed on the way to visit now-fiancée Stacey Kelly in Liverpool.
Hannah was rushed to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital by ambulance and was diagnosed with gastroparesis after numerous tests.
And since November 2015 she has had to be hooked up to a feeding tube for 20 hours a day.
On good days she can manage small amounts of food but she will still vomit it back up, and must avoid foods with high fat and fibre content completely.
The keen runner, who has been unable to exercise since becoming ill, said: “Food hardly moves through my stomach.
“I’m sick every day. On a better day it will be around seven or eight times a day, but on a bad day it is between 30 and 60 times.
“I really miss eating a Sunday roast dinner – and I love steak, which I just can’t eat because I’m not allowed red meat.
“I’m constantly weak, I need a lot of help getting around. Just walking downstairs is exhausting.
“My mum works mornings and won’t get home until 2pm in the afternoon, so I usually have to stay upstairs until she gets home.
“I can’t go out that much. If I do I have to know where the toilets are, and it takes a lot of organising.
“I’m back and forward to the bathroom constantly to be sick, and I can be sick any time of the day.”
Since her diagnosis, Hannah’s condition has now deteriorated so much that she is in need of a stomach pacemaker.
But she claims her application for the pacemaker, which works by delivering electric shocks to her stomach, was rejected yesterday (March 8).
The 26-year-old said her only option now, after an appeal, is to raise £20,000 herself to receive the pacemaker privately.
Hannah said: “I’m angry and frustrated, and feel majorly let down. It’s like they are putting my life on hold and I’m being looked at as a number and not as a human being.
“My family and Stacey are a massive support. Stacey and I try and joke about it – when we first met she took me out for a really expensive, nice meal, and I threw it straight back up.
“I felt really bad about it, but she put me at ease and joked that I was a cheap date and she could have taken me for fast food instead.
“The pacemaker would just allow me to get back to work and start to live my life again. I’m only 26.”
Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust declined to comment.
A spokesperson for NHS West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “NHS West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group is unable to comment on the outcome of individual funding requests made for treatments which aren’t routinely provided by the NHS.
“It is clinical commissioning group policy that notification of the outcome of applications for funding are made only in writing to the referring clinician and, if they are not the applicant themselves, the patient’s GP.
“Under no circumstances would the CCG disclose the outcome of an application for funding directly to a patient nor anyone else acting on their behalf.”
To donate to Hannah’s fundraising go to https://www.youcaring.com/hannahleffler-756177