I’m A Hu­man Waterbed

What was mak­ing Laura swell to twice her size?

Pick Me Up! Special - - News - Laura Pell, 36, Northamp­ton

Driv­ing down a quiet coun­try lane with my boyfriend, Mark, 30, I winced as the car hit a bump. ‘Be care­ful,’ I said. ‘I can’t take the pain.’

Mark hit the brakes and I could feel the wa­ter in my legs pool­ing in my feet. ‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘Do you want me to turn around?’

I was grate­ful to be out of the house, but the dis­com­fort I felt as the car rolled over ev­ery lit­tle stone or hole in the road was just too much to bear.

‘I think we’ll have to. I’m sorry,’ I said wearily.

For the past year, I had been turn­ing into a hu­man waterbed.

It sounds funny to say, but if I didn’t laugh about it, I’d cry my­self to sleep each night.

Quite sim­ply, I started re­tain­ing wa­ter in my feet and an­kles and over the months, it spread to my thighs, hips, stom­ach, back and arms.

Some­times, when I wake up in the morn­ing, my eyes are so puffed up with fluid built up be­hind them that I find it dif­fi­cult to see. It takes a few hours of slowly mov­ing around for the fluid to drain from my face, and down my body. I’ve also bal­looned in weight. I started at nine stone, and ten months later I was tip­ping over 18st.

My health has al­ways been a chal­lenge for me.

I grew up with my mum and lit­tle brother, and at school, I was al­ways play­ing catch up be­cause I was con­stantly off sick.

If there was a bug or ill­ness go­ing around, I’d get it.

‘That school of yours is like a casse­role of germs,’ Mum said.

My luck with ill­nesses didn’t end there though.

At 17, while I was at col­lege study­ing the per­form­ing arts, I was hos­pi­talised with TB.

Thank­fully, with the help of my fam­ily and friends, I pulled through, but I re­mained a very sickly young woman.

I strug­gled to get back into col­lege but caught so many bugs that I slipped be­hind and had to drop out.

I was dev­as­tated. Bat­tling through var­i­ous jobs, I went to the doc­tor count­less times, beg­ging them to find out why I was al­ways so poorly.

They were at a loss and I was signed off work al­to­gether.

I even­tu­ally got mar­ried, but af­ter a while, even that fell apart with the pres­sure of my ill­nesses. Our re­la­tion­ship had be­come more like carer and pa­tient than hus­band and wife and he couldn’t cope any­more.

The only thing that helped me through the di­vorce were my two Jack Rus­sells, Milly and Sam.

‘What would I do with­out you two?’ I sighed, look­ing around our quiet house.

But I was de­ter­mined to find love again, and in June 2013, I started on­line dat­ing.

Af­ter a few weeks, Mark sent me a mes­sage. Af­ter four dates in a row, he no­ticed some­thing about me.

‘Are you all right, Laura?’ he asked. ‘You’re sweat­ing an aw­ful lot.’

Mor­ti­fied, I had to ex­plain to him what I had to go through on a daily ba­sis. To my sur­prise, he didn’t run a mile.

In­stead, it made our bud­ding re­la­tion­ship even stronger and he stood by me. But af­ter five months of dat­ing, our re­la­tion­ship was to face an­other test. ‘Mark!’i yelled as I tried in vain to yank my favourite leather boots on. ‘My boots won’t fit!’ Pop­ping his head into the hall­way, he said, ‘What do you mean they won’t fit? You were wear­ing them yes­ter­day.’ ‘I know,’ I said. ‘But look.’ I pushed down on the skin of my foot and it didn’t bounce back im­me­di­ately. And it was the same with the other foot. My doc­tor had re­cently di­ag­nosed me with Com­mon Vari­able Im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency, or CVID for short, and had warned me that wa­ter re­ten­tion was just an­other symp­tom of it. ‘So to add to the list of things wrong with me, I have to add fat feet to it now, have I?’ I laughed. But in­side I was ex­hausted. I slipped on my comfy flats and tried my best to get on with

my day.weeks later, I no­ticed my calves and thighs were get­ting thick too and it spread across my whole body.

I could al­most feel the wa­ter slosh­ing around in my legs – they were so tight and swollen, and they had turned pink with sores and ten­der­ness all over.

‘I’m turn­ing into Vi­o­let from Willy Wonka,’ I said.

‘Mark, you’re go­ing to have send me to the juicing room.’

Even­tu­ally my en­tire body had be­come swollen.

When I sat down for too long the

wa­ter drained into my feet and the pain was un­bear­able.

But I couldn’t stand for long ei­ther.

My body be­came in­tol­er­a­bly heavy.

And not the kind of wob­bly, flabby heavy that over­weight peo­ple have. My body was taught and rigid. When I caught a glimpse of my re­flec­tion, I didn’t recog­nise the woman look­ing back.

Be­fore, I was ill, but I was slim. Now I was bloated and looked hideously un­well. My skin was lit­er­ally stretched to the limit.

‘You need to go to the doc­tor and get this sorted out,’ Mark said. ‘Once and for all.’ He was wor­ried about me, and so was I.

But the doc­tors were baf­fled de­spite per­form­ing end­less tests.

‘You cer­tainly have a se­vere oedema – a re­ten­tion of bod­ily fluid – but we just don’t know why or what’s caus­ing it,’ they said. They said even if they ‘drained me’ it would come back even worse.

All I kept hear­ing was that I’m a ‘com­pli­cated case.’

All I want is to know how to fix this be­fore it’s too late. I’ve put on over nine stone just in fluid and I’ve gone from a size 10 to a whop­ping size 22.

Peo­ple look at me in the street and I know they think I’ve just got a weight prob­lem, but now I hardly go out as the pain is too much.

Since then, Mark and I un­for­tu­nately split up over the pres­sures of all my ill­nesses. I couldn’t re­ally blame him. I’ve been pre­scribed di­uret­ics and steroids in an at­tempt to drain the ex­cess fluid from my body, but

ev­ery­thing so far has failed.

To make things worse, I was also re­cently di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes. I spend all my time on the in­ter­net try­ing des­per­ately to find any an­swers that could help me.

If only I could get this sorted, then life would be won­der­ful.

Un­til then, I just need to stay strong and hope that one day, I will even­tu­ally feel de­flated for all the right rea­sons.

I couldn’t get my boots on

A life­time of ill­ness I DIDN’T RECOG­NISE MY OWN RE­FLEC­TION Nine stone in wa­ter

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