A police officer who can only poo once every two months due to a crippling bowel condition is trying to raise £30,000 for an operation to help relieve her ailment.
Anna Cowling can only eat soft foods and feels bloated after a single sip of water because and has constant sickness and nausea.
The 34-year-old was diagnosed with the chronic condition gastroparesis in 2017, meaning her stomach takes longer than normal to digest food.
She is left with crippling pain in her joints and chronic bloating meaning she spends most of her time in hospital or sitting down at home.
The worsening condition has meant Anna has had to leave behind her dream job in the control room for the Met Police where she had worked since 2011 because of the pain.
She said: “It’s just impossible to do anything. When I’m at home I’m just constantly on the sofa, my parents have to do everything for me and I’m always at hospital.
“I can only eat soft foods so I’ll have a yogurt for breakfast, soup for lunch and then mashed potato for dinner but it has to be really mashed, sometimes I have to put it through a blender.
“I have a sip of water and I’m bloated, I just feel really heavy in my stomach and I have pain on my spine. I just want to feel better.”
Anna has suffered with bowel and digestion issues ever since she was born.
She explained: “Ever since I was born, I have always had difficulty going to the toilet, when was younger I would only go once a week.
“It was 2015 when I noticed quite a big change. I was going to the toilet once a month and I would try taking laxatives but nothing would work.
“Then it got worse in 2017. I was getting constant pains in my abdominal and my joints and I started going to the toilet every two months. I couldn’t keep anything down.”
In 2017, Anna was diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses including gastroparesis and Ehlers Danlos syndrome- a rare condition affecting the connective tissue in the body.
The syndrome has led on to other issues including a heart infection and Anna is in constant pain with her joints.
People with EDS are at a also higher risk of complications if they are put to sleep with anaesthetics during surgery, as sufferers bleed for much longer than others, making wounds harder to heal.
Anna added: “They’re all separate but they all go hand in hand.”
While there is currently no cure for gastroparesis, there a few things that can be done to improve the quality of life- but the NHS do not fund them.
One option is a gastric pacemaker, which is performed in an NHS hospital in Essex, but costs around £30,000.
The pacemaker would be fitted in the stomach and would speed up Anna’s gastric emptying but it needs to be replaced every ten years.
The second option is to under a Per-oral Pyloromyotomy procedure (POP) in America in a specialist bowel hospital.
This would snip part of the end of your stomach off allowing it to empty better but this treatment is not available in the UK and costs around $40,000- over £30,000.
Anna said: “That is the most effective option and it would hopefully improve my quality of life.
“I just feel like it’s never ending, I’m always in hospital. Before I could never really sit and do nothing I was always out doing something but now I just feel so ill.”
Anna previously worked for easyJet and volunteered with the police for seven years before finally joining the control room and was also a special for Essex Police.
She said: “I thought I’m spending all my time here, I might as well join! I loved my job it was something I always wanted to do. I would wake up and feel excited about going into work.
“If I can get this surgery I’d love to return even if it’s just part time.”
Anna is now trying to raise money to pay for the treatment in America as well as travel and accommodation costs.
To donate, you can visit her Go Fund Me page here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/u6t3de-fighting-for-a-cure?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unknown&utm_campaign=comms_gfm+u6t3de-fighting-for-a-cure