A man with a rare condition that left him unable to eat has opened up about the struggles he has faced.
Liam Findley first began to notice something was wrong in 2017 when he ‘suddenly’ started to experience difficulty swallowing while eating, although it began with just food - the condition worsened to the point that even drinking water became difficult.
He told LADbible: “It came along unexpectedly in 2017. I normally ate - I enjoyed eating - but then suddenly, my food pipe became like a blocked drain.
“It came on suddenly, but it got worse gradually. I could swallow normally with some difficulty at first, but then thicker things - like chips or bread - I couldn’t have anymore and then eventually it was everything down to water.
“I kind of had to resort to living off smoothies and high-fat soup, and when I would have that and water as well only so much would go down, so I ended up losing lots of weight and became quite weak.”
Liam ended up losing around two stone and, with his condition not improving, he visited his GP where he was initially given medication for acid reflux.
But when that didn’t help he had to go to various hospitals for further tests - including having a camera put down his throat on more than one occasion.
“They could see that my food pipe was ballooning up,” he went on. “They could see that the entrance to my stomach was just not opening and my food pipe, normally it would convulse and put down, but it wasn’t doing that.”
Liam was eventually diagnosed with achalasia - a rare disorder of the food pipe (also known as the oesophagus), which can make it difficult to swallow food and drink.
In Liam’s case, doctors decided to operate and in 2019 he underwent an operation called Heller's Myotomy in which the muscle at the entrance to the stomach is cut allowing food and drink to pass through.
However, even after undergoing the surgery Liam still struggles to eat as normal.
He said. “I can pretty much eat whatever I want as long as I have plenty of water to wash it down. But I avoid thicker foods, because I also get spasms in my stomach. It's like a crushing pain in my stomach, where my nerves are kind of confused and it's just really really painful, it’s like being winded. That happens when I have thicker things that might get stuck in my food pipe, so I still avoid some food.”
Alongside that, Liam has to drink ‘lots and lots’ of water at meal times to get his food down, which presents its own problems.
He went on: “I can’t go for a walk without needing the toilet and I have to have dinner around six o’clock and then have nothing after that or I’ll be up all night needing the toilet.”
And it’s not just having to pee more that has caused an issue for Liam; due to having to knock back so much water, Liam has ended up with water poisoning - or water intoxication - twice, which can be fatal.
Liam explained: “Water intoxication wasn’t something I really anticipated because it had not been mentioned to me and I was drinking two or three, or more litres, per meal.
“It was back in January when I had my first water intoxication incident.
“My fingers were going tingly and I was losing feeling in my feet and hands and it was travelling up through my body. I went pale, I was lightheaded and was wrenching - my body wanted to vomit but because of my surgery I’m not able to vomit - it was a horrible state to be in.
“I rushed off to hospital and they had to give me electrolytes via IV drips to bring my electrolytes back into balance.”
Following his experience, Liam said he was more careful about his water intake, but on a trip to Rome a few months later, amid a heatwave, he once again accidentally drank too much water and had to go to hospital.
“It is alarming when it happens,” he said. “Because something as simple as having water, which I need to have food, knowing that that can do me that much harm makes me very wary - especially now having had it twice.”
Liam now keeps strict limits on his water intake, which in turn means he has to eat smaller, more nutrient dense, meals, as he can’t handle eating larger portions.
While still coming to terms with his condition, Liam says he found an outlet in writing and this year published his first children’s book titled The Doom Town Dummies - you can find out more about the book, or buy a copy here.
“I was writing this while I was so weak - at the start of my achalasia - and I found that writing was a nice means of escapism,” he said.
“It was nice to escape through writing. It’s not a conclusion to the journey - but at the point where I can eat again, it’s nice to put this book out and have it as a marker of what I’ve been through.”Featured Image Credit: LADbible/supplied