THE BLOG

I Never Imagined That One Day I Would Wake Up Sick, And Never Get Better

29/11/2016 12:26 | Updated 5 days ago

May 27, 2013. A date I will never forget.

The day I suffered a life threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock.

My throat swelled, my oxygen levels were dangerously low and if it wasn't for the proactive medics around me, I would have died.

2016-11-29-1480420510-9643084-Natasha10.jpg

It was just a one off, right? That's what I thought. Yet here I stand nearly four years later and 250 epipens down.

I have now suffered over 300 anaphylactic reactions and sometimes I require adrenaline every 20 minutes just to maintain a patent airway.

After two years of testing I was diagnosed with the rare, life threatening condition Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

There is no cure.

2016-11-29-1480414560-4022449-Natasha8.jpg

In a nutshell, my mast cells are hypersensitive and cause allergic and anaphylactic reactions to things like a change in temperature, exercise, a strong smell and pretty much anything else you can think of. They also cause chronic symptoms daily, which is down to the mast cells releasing chemicals such as histamine and heparin at varying levels - all the time.

I became disabled overnight. I went from a normal 18 year old, planning her university life and having fun, to a girl tangled in hospital wires fighting for her life.

2016-11-29-1480414596-3828166-Natasha9.jpg

It hasn't been easy.

There is no book to tell you how to become disabled and it certainly wasn't something I was prepared for. I didn't recognise this bald, pale girl staring back at me in the mirror. I didn't feel young and invincible anymore, my mortality is rubbed in my face nearly every day due to this condition.

Living with my condition provokes a variety of reactions in other people. Because it's so rare, people have never heard of it. When I say it causes life threatening anaphylactic reactions to pretty much anything, they say "Oh I'm allergic to grass" and then they'll say something like "Oh, have you tried eating local honey?.

2016-11-29-1480414640-208694-Natasha7.jpg

I don't often wear a wig, but I'm more likely to use it when I'm with my friends on a night out and I just want to relax and enjoy a normal social situation. When I have one on most people don't realise I have an impairment, and react to me in the same way they do to everyone else. When I don't have it on I can see people's attitudes changing towards me.

Kids stare at me because they're curious. I know they aren't staring in a rude way, they're just learning. Parents will grab their hands and awkwardly turn them away but I'd rather a child just came up to me and asked "What's wrong with you?" then I can explain and educate them.

2016-11-29-1480416499-7540788-11877ETASocialPosts_Statonyellowbackground_1000x500px.jpg

This year, I was a part of End the Awkward, a campaign run by the disability charity Scope that highlights nearly half (43%) of the British public do not personally know someone with a disability and the majority of the British public (67%) admit that they feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people. Scope also found that younger people feel uncomfortable around disabled people and all too often go out of their way to avoid talking to disabled people altogether.

It's fair to say that we can't change people's feelings towards disability overnight, but hopefully with campaigns like this, we are getting closer to ending the awkward.

Three years ago my life turned upside down. I can now tell you four different airway types, I can tell you the colours in size order of the cannulas used for access to your veins, I can tell you how I've stopped breathing with this condition - but most importantly I can also tell you that I am okay.

Tonight at 10pm, I will be featuring in the Channel 5 series 'Medical Mysteries' to share my experiences of my diagnosis of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and how this has impacted me.

2016-11-29-1480414686-8233215-Natasha1.jpg

We can spend our lives worrying that some major catastrophe will happen in life and everything will fall apart, yet no-one ever talks about what happens after that. I can tell you from experience that life goes on. The challenges are different and you will mourn your previous life but you start to adapt to your new world. It takes time, but slowly and surely, you'll start to recognise yourself in that mirror again.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS