A YouTube video that a 24-year-old mother from Scotland posted about her battle with stomach paralysis has sparked wide coverage of her bravery.
Charlene Johnstone's pregnancy resulted in a condition called gastroparesis. "I'm trying not to die, " she wrote in the heartbreaking video (watch it above).
Gastroparesis stops the muscles in the stomach from functioning normally, according to the Mayo Clinic. That causes digestive problems, nausea and malnutrition. Johnstone came up with her own definition in the online chronicle: "just a fancy medical term for slowly starving to death."
Johnstone's case has been so severe that she hasn't eaten in four years, dropping from a size 12 to a size 6 after getting sick 15 times a day, according to reports.
"I've sat with her over the last few years and watched her deteriorate," friend Stacey Brown told the Clydebank Post back in February, when Brown embarked on a fundraising quest through mountain climbing, skydiving and other adventures. "She's probably one of the bravest people I know - she's an inspiration," Brown added.
Now that the British tabloids have picked up on the story, Johnstone and the disease are sure to get more attention. She attempted to use a gastric pacemaker but her bladder and intestine eventually failed. Now she uses a tube that bypasses her intestine completely.
"This is LIFE-THREATENING," she wrote.
In the U.S., the Rochester Epidemiology Project in Minnesota found that the incidence of "true gastroparesis" is about 6 per 100,000 persons per year.
Christine Gould, a nurse in Maine, wrote about her trials with gastroparesis at G-Pact.org. After several drugs did not work, she had a gastric neurostimulator inserted in 2009, and was apparently coping. "Despite crippling fatigue, I still work over forty hours per week, but I essentially have a desk job," wrote Gould, who has lost 80 pounds.
Johnstone's situation appears far more dire. One theory described in the Daily Mail of how she could have contracted the condition was that her son Hayden, now almost 4, put too much pressure on the nerves that transmit to her intestines when he was in her womb.
Whatever the cause, she says on YouTube that she's fighting for Hayden.
"I may wake up unwell," she said, "but at least I wake up."