'Curvy girl' thought needing loo more often was normal, then her weight plummeted to 5 stone

Woman with black hair
-Credit: (Image: Morgan Underwood)

Morgan Underwood initially brushed off her increasing toilet visits as something normal. However, things took a dark turn when she noticed blood and mucus in her faeces, which finally led her to consult a doctor.

Despite the 22-year-old being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, her health kept declining, forcing the former ambulance assistant to remain homebound due to her fear of not finding a toilet quickly enough while out.

Morgan shared distressing accounts of her daily struggle: "I would avoid going on meals as it would just go straight through me." She added: "It then also started to affect my working life as I worked on ambulances as an ambulance assistant." For the latest health and Covid news, sign up to our newsletter here

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Her fear of not reaching a toilet on time if she ate during her long shifts made her feel physically exhausted and extremely rundown, reports the Manchester Evening News. Her deteriorating health forced Morgan to revisit her GP for further tests. Their findings led to a colonoscopy, which, unfortunately, had to be aborted mid-procedure due to the unbearable pain it caused Morgan.

Finally, she was diagnosed with proctitis, inflammation of the rectum lining, early in 2023. Despite being diagnosed, Morgan's symptoms only worsened, leading to mouth ulcers, weight loss, aching joints, and a weakened immune system that resulted in her contracting Covid four times.

"Mentally I was becoming more and more depressed as I felt socially isolated due to not enjoying my social life to the fullest," Morgan shared. "I felt as if I missed out a lot of it due to my health. Physically, the weight was just dropping off me and I had no clue why."

At her lowest point, Morgan's weight plummeted to a mere 5st 2lbs, rendering her bedridden and dependent on assistance for even the simplest tasks. "I had always been a curvy girl," she recounted. "To then go to skin and bone without me even noticing ruined me. I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror without crying. No clothes I had fit me. My legs weren't strong enough to keep myself up straight or even walk a few steps, I had lost all my muscle mass as well."

"My mum had to feed me, cut my food up, open and close doors for me, dress me and shower me. From being so active, physically able and independent, to my mum being my full-time carer really affected me. Although my mum and dad did not mind as they would do absolutely anything for me, I felt like a burden to them."

woman ill in bed
woman ill in bed

The steroids she was prescribed brought about extreme fatigue, further incapacitating Morgan and preventing her from working. Her condition reached a critical point when she was urgently admitted to the hospital in August, 2023, with gastrointestinal bleeding, which led to surgery days later.

Morgan recounted a harrowing three-week hospital stay before doctors finally identified her condition as Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory disorder of the digestive tract. Crohn's disease is an incurable illness that causes inflammation in various parts of the digestive system, with symptoms ranging from diarrhoea and abdominal pain to blood in the stool, extreme tiredness, and weight loss.

Treatments are available to manage the symptoms of Crohn's disease, though no cure exists, the NHS points out. "Going years and years without a diagnosis was petrifying to say the least," said Morgan. "My life was in limbo. I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere or getting any answers, it was like I was stuck in a rut and this was my life now."

"Don't get me wrong, I had to fight for a diagnosis and it took a long period of time. It took me being critical to officially get a diagnosis of Crohn's." After starting biotherapy treatment for her condition, Morgan saw an improvement in her health. However, shortly after being released from the hospital, she suffered a collapse due to another gastrointestinal bleed and was immediately readmitted.

During her subsequent hospitalisation, she underwent significant abdominal surgery and an ileostomy, which involves creating an opening in the abdomen. Additionally, she had a double barrel ostomy performed, where the diseased sections of the bowel are removed and the two ends are brought out through openings in the abdominal wall.

Following a third bleeding episode, Morgan faced further surgery for a total colectomy segmental resection, resulting in the need for a permanent stoma bag. A colostomy is a surgical procedure that diverts one end of the colon, a part of the bowel, through an opening in the stomach. This opening is known as a stoma.

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A pouch can be placed over the stoma to collect waste. A colostomy can be either permanent or temporary. "After surgery, I genuinely did think my life was over," Morgan confessed. "Especially for a younger girl, I felt as if I could never go out and enjoy my life again."

"I couldn't wear what I wanted, I'd never be able to date again, I'd never be able to go on holidays with my friends or attend festivals but honestly, I couldn't have been more wrong."

While in hospital, nurses introduced Morgan to a Facebook support group for individuals with her condition.After connecting with a woman who had undergone a similar experience, Morgan finally felt she could begin to rebuild her life.

"It has well and truly changed my life for the better," Morgan said, referring to her stoma. "I feel that once you get over that fear of not knowing how to live life with your ileostomy, you realise how it has actually changed for the better."

"I feel like it's all a mental game if you let it ruin your life and get in the way, then it will. It's given me my quality of life back, the confidence to go out and not worry about where the toilet is and many more."

Morgan asked in the Facebook group whether any young people would like to participate in a group chat. After receiving numerous responses, she decided to establish her own support group named Super Stomas, with the aim of helping others with the condition feel less isolated.

Despite still battling severe fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, insomnia, loss of appetite, hair loss and blurred vision conditions that prevent her from continuing her work as an ambulance assistant, Morgan remains on the path to recovery and is optimistic about what lies ahead.

"It took a long time for me to come to terms with it all and build my confidence," she shared. "But I've changed something negative that's happened in my life to something positive by creating Super Stomas. My aim is to spread awareness for the younger generation and remove the stigma that not only older generations have ostomy bags."

"When I look back at everything I've been through, it gets me emotional. I just want to give my past self a hug and tell her everything's going to be okay. I'm just glad I've found the light at the end of the tunnel and come out the other side."