I’m A Human Waterbed
What was making Laura swell to twice her size?
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