4. Hunting for Blastocystis…


….like looking for a needle in a haystack with the Hubble Space Telescope….

The following is the continuing story of my blastocystis hominis infection and subsequent recovery – yeah for recovery!!
Brief recap. My gastrointestinal symptoms had begun around about  February 2014, when I weighed a healthy  9 stone 3lbs and was happy!
Between then and now; approx. 7 months on, I had visited the GP surgery 7 or 8X and had lost over a stone in weight.  I had drastically reduced the size of my meal portions (they were never huge to begin with) and had stopped eating foods that resulted in the ‘weird swelling’ situation for example rice, potatoes, any carbs to be honest. Bananas – they were a nightmare of pain! Vegetables, and large amounts of fluids all made me swell up. I was eating VERY little really.  And, whatever I did try to eat, I would shit it out within an hour.
Seriously, within the hour.

We pick up the story as I am about to have an MRI scan of my abdomen.  As I’ve said previously, this trip to the hospital, was, um… frustrating and upsetting at the time but in hindsight, entertaining and could well be a scene in a comedy drama.  Miranda Hart are you reading?!

October 2014

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan, is usually used to help the doctor look at organs, bones and tissues without the need for surgery. The scanner can detect, brain tumours, traumatic brain injury, developmental anomalies, multiple sclerosis, stroke, dementia, infection, and the causes of headache.
With the benefit of hindsight, this type of test was obviously never going to find the actual cause of my symptoms, however, back then, I felt so grateful that we in the UK can have this provided for us by the NHS absolutely free.
Plus, with nothing coming up in any of the other tests, having this ‘look’ inside my abdomen, would be very reassuring, if they didn’t find anything….

I remember trying to calm my beating heart if.. well…. you know… what if they DID find something horrid…

As the scan was for my abdominal region, I wasn’t to eat anything for 6 hours beforehand – I think it was 6, it might have been 4, can’t quite remember.  Anyhoo, as I said previously, NOT eating anything was a cinch! No problemo!  I can now go for days without eating anything.  Yes, I am exhausted but, I have very little pain. Result!

However, the bit that I was worried about was drinking 1-1.5L of fluid before the scan.  I knew that my weird swelling thing would happen. 
Remember I have likened my ‘weird swelling thing’ to resemble the tummy of a 7 month pregnant woman? And that my gait, my posture, my inability to bend in the middle when sitting down or standing up from a chair looked really rather odd, considering I was NOT pregnant? See post My Blastocystis Symptoms
However, remaining positive as always, I figured that it would be good for them to see, just what my body actually did when I ingested a larger amount of anything.

My golly, how naïve was I ?!

As some of you may know, they do NOT want to scan you if you are pregnant,  especially in the first trimester, due to the unknown long-term effects of the strong magnetic fields on the developing baby….
Can you see where I am going with this?…

On arrival in the department ‘Nice-Nurse’ takes me through a basic questionnaire at the chest-height desk, asking about my health and asks if there is any chance that I am pregnant?

Me, “no”

They then sit me down in the large waiting area and ask me to drink the fluid over the next 30-45 mins.  Ideally without going to the loo. (That’s a worry, I can pee for Britain.  My good friend Sarah, has said that I must have a bladder the size of a walnut)
There are about 6 other patients in the area, all manfully chugging down the fluid. Some have friends and family with them (these are pre-Covid times remember!) Suffice it to say, it is a relatively busy wee place. And I am the only one there on my own.

As I begin to drink, the swelling starts.  Oh God…
“Come on Jill”, I say to myself, “just breathe through it, stay calm, THINK the fluid downwards! Picture its’ route, relax, lengthen your back. For heaven’s sake just get it down you”.
I get up and walk about a bit, trying to ‘shoogle it doon’. I am trying to calm my nerves. What if I can’t get it all in me and then they cannot perform the scan? And what if there IS something horrid inside me, like tumours and if I can’t have the scan we’ll never KNOW!

As I try to ‘look cool’ having my wee walk about, trying desperately not to draw attention to myself, ‘Not-So-Nice-Nurse’ strides purposefully over to me and demands rather sternly “are you pregnant?”

Me, “no, this is what happens when I eat or drink, this is why I am here.” 

It is obvious that she is unsure whether to believe me or not. She nods, “hmmm..” and goes back to her desk, continually flipping her head up to look at me every now and again. “Jeez, I’m being watched. I WISH I had somebody here with me….”

Another 20 mins go past and I am manging to keep drinking but…Now? I’m in pain.  I am very uncomfortable and have to keep shifting in my chair, aka the pregnant woman move. 

I see ‘Nice’ and ‘Not-So-Nice’ having a little conflab together.  “Oh Christ” I think, “they hate me.  They don’t believe that I am not pregnant, and they might even be thinking that I am slightly mad.”
I stare down at my magazine, not seeing any of the words, willing them to leave me alone. Some of the other people in the room have cottoned on to the fact that I am being ‘observed’. It is the largest group of, ‘we’re here to support our family member’ groups, so their general chat and telling of jokes to keep their family member’s spirits up, is relatively loud. And wonderfully entertaining too!

But, I SO wish that I wasn’t on my own.  I am feeling stressed.  What if they won’t do it?  What if all the answers to my ongoing hell could be resolved with this test?  Will I have to go back to the GP surgery?  What about that GP who wrote in my notes, ‘the patient feels she looks pregnant”. 
Where the bloody hell is she now then?
Because the medical staff in here, the ones who are standing in the way of me and that scanner, TOTALLY think that I am pregnant.  Oh God, oh God oh God.

They then try a different approach –

“Hello love”, ‘Nice-Nurse’ says kindly, with a smile, “I’m just checking, is there any chance that you might be pregnant?  Because we really do not advise that you have the scan if you are”
I repeat my answer and explain again,
“no, this is what happens when I eat or drink, this is why I am here”, also with a smile, and I’m afraid to say, my eyes were beginning to tear up in desperation.

“That’s fine” ‘Nice Nurse’ says and wanders slowly back to the desk. The whole room now definitely know summat’s up with the lass in the corner. I can feel everybody surreptitiously looking at me over their newspapers and iPads.
I am dying inside with embarrassment.

For their final attempt to wheedle the ‘truth’ out of me, they send in ‘Not-So-Nice’ again. She asks me the same question but in a louder voice so that everyone can hear us,

“you need to tell us if you’re pregnant”

When I repeat my answer, she flounces off with a loud “tsk”.
Now, everybody are unashamedly staring at me. The waiting room is now silent, no-one moving in their hard-backed plastic, orange chairs. The laughter and chit-chat has ceased. The group of strangers are now bound together in their unanimous belief that I am causing these hard-working nurses grief.

I feel the tears welling up again. I beg my tear ducts to take a break, to stop the flow, “everything is fine! I’ll be ok! I know I’m telling the truth and that’s all that matters!”
But I’m on my own. I’m terrified of what they might find in the scan.
And I’m nervous that they won’t find anything at all too!
After the last 7 months of not being able to eat, the incredible pain and the ‘not getting any answers’ is really taking it’s toll…
It’s all too much for my wee tear ducts.
I leave the waiting re and go out in to the corridor, to walk/waddle up and down out of their view, as the tears break free and fall on to the cold, linoleum hospital floor.

Then it’s my turn! I am called to the scanning room.  And now, obviously, after ingesting 1.5L of fluid there is NO hiding my funny walk/pregnant lady waddle. I try, I really do try to not do it, but it is just not physically possible. 
Everyone in the waiting room, watches me as I walk across the room.
I feel like a right eejit.

The nurse who takes me in to the scanner room – ‘Scanner-Nurse’, treats me with kindness. There has been a little meeting between ‘Nice-Nurse’, ‘Not-So-Nice-Nurse’ and ‘Scanner-Nurse’. I can tell that she doesn’t know WHAT to do with me!  I feel that she is confused. 
Aren’t we all love ..

I am scanned.

It goes according to protocol.

There is nothing wrong with me. 

This is the end of October.  My symptoms began in February.

I weep a little.  Again.

Medical Herbalist/ Nutrition Clare McQuade at www.deeatkinson.net 
Email – [email protected]
Nutritionist – my nutritionist is no longer working but I highly recommend Kate Swaine at www.edinburghclinicofnutrition.com
Private GP specialist – Dr. Econs

By now, you know I am not a doctor, nutritionist, qualified gut specialist, nor cardiologist!
By staying on this website the reader fully accepts that this content cannot be used to replace qualified medical advice.
I can offer advice sessions on how to Be Your Best Advocate in a healthcare setting
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This blog is a personal blog, written and edited by me, Jill McLaggan. All content is to inform and entertain. All opinions are my own.