IT is a condition that seldom makes the news, but its consequences can be horrific for sufferers.
For years, Donna Mear was forced to make up to 40 visits to the lavatory every day due to ulcerative colitis, a disease of the colon which causes ulcers and open sores.
The condition caused her to lose so much blood she could not get out of bed without fainting.
Her pain was so bad, she did not even notice her labour cramps as she gave birth to her daughter.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include constant diarrhoea, bleeding, crippling abdominal pain and weight loss, and there is no known cure.
Donna’s problems started while she was pregnant with daughter Evangelina three years ago. Although she had suffered from mild irritable bowl syndrome since childhood, her symptoms suddenly escalated.
“I was having severe abdominal pain,” explained Donna, also a mam to eight-year-old Kieran. “I was going to the toilet up to 40 times a day, suffering from extreme diarrhoea and losing a lot of blood.
“At first, my GP put it all down to pregnancy but after a few weeks I was at the point of exhaustion. I couldn’t get out of bed without fainting.
“I was rushed to hospital and found out I’d lost five pints of blood. I had a blood transfusion and was put on steroids. I was extremely scared as I had no idea what was wrong – all I could think of was bowel cancer.”
Donna had never heard of ulcerative colitis until she was diagnosed – but it would change her life.
“For 13 months I had diarrhoea and constant extreme pain,” the 31-year-old explained. “I’d only eat once, at night. During the day I’d live on sherbet, cola and jelly babies just to stop me fainting.
“When I gave birth to my daughter, I didn’t feel the labour pains until her head appeared, the pain from my bowel condition was so severe.”