She is just 23 years old, and should be living her life to the full.

But Stephanie Horner is confined to her bed, plagued by a rare condition.

At her lowest points, when in the grip of illness, she vomits every 20 minutes for days on end.

The sickness began when she was just 13, but doctors were left baffled despite numerous visits to hospital.

It was only when she researched her symptoms online that Miss Horner was referred to a specialist who diagnosed her as suffering Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (CVS).

The condition induces severe episodes of vomiting that can last from three days to four weeks..

The 23-year-old is hospitalised at least once a month, which means she struggles to keep a job and was forced to drop out of university in 2011.

Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome affects one in 300,000 children, but only a fifth of sufferers experience the condition as an adult.

It leaves patients with sudden sickness, severe abdominal migraines and nausea, and currently it’s not understood what causes it or how to treat it.

Miss Horner, from Gateshead, said: ‘I can be sick every 20 minutes when the condition is at its worst and even in between that I’ll be retching and trying not to cry.

‘It’s really exhausting. When I have bad episodes all I can do is get to hospital and keep strong until it passes.’

The condition dictates her life, forcing her to plan around the illness for fear of throwing up on herself and being rushed to hospital for weeks on end.

‘Every morning I lie in the bath and work out whether I can deal with the condition myself or whether I need medical attention at the hospital,’ she said. ‘If I misjudge it I could die of dehydration.’

Miss Horner’s problems began in 2011, when she started to experience severe sickness and stomach pains, and at times was even vomiting blood.

Despite numerous hospital visits, doctors were left baffled by her constant sickness, and so she began looking up her symptoms online.

She said: ‘It was really worrying at first, I didn’t know why I was so sick and thought it must be a nasty virus.

‘I was in and out of hospital once every couple of months but no one could find out what was wrong with me.

Miss Horner can be sick every 20 minutes when her illness is at its worstShe said: 'It's really exhausting. When I have bad episodes all I can do is get to hospital and keep strong until it passes'

‘When I started throwing up blood I thought I might be dying and was terrified.

‘I looked up my symptoms online and after being referred a specialist later confirmed I had Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome.’

She was diagnosed in September 2013, and since then her symptoms have worsened, leaving her bedridden with symptoms on average five days a week.

Sometimes she is able to medicate herself at home but other times she’s rushed to hospital.

Her recurring illness means she struggles to keep a job due to frequently needing time off to manage her condition.

And because it is not widely recognised in the UK there is no disability benefit allowance.

Miss Horner, a former sociology student at the University of Sunderland, said she hopes to finish her studies in the future and from there go on to help others to understand her condition.

She said: ‘Since having CVS I’ve lost five jobs and was withdrawn from university because of absence related to being sick all of the time.

‘It’s really frustrating because I can’t do anything I can’t plan a holiday or make plans with friends as I never know if I’m going to be well enough.

‘I really want to get a job and have a normal life again but because of this condition I can’t.

‘Every time I get a job I know it will only be a matter of time before they fire me because I’m hospitalised so much due to my illness.’

During her less severe episodes Miss Horner suffers from nausea, disorientating and spends most of her time on a sofa.

She manages her condition with a variety of six drugs a day.

She said: ‘When I wake up I get into a scolding hot bath to help soothe my pain as that’s all that helps to relieve me.

‘I’ll spend up to five hours in there trying to rid the cramping and squeezing feeling in my tummy and the shooting pains up my side.

‘I have waves of nausea and wooziness as I try to stop myself from being sick.

‘Then I’ll take Morphine or Tramadol and my other medications and try to relax until I can go to sleep.

‘I’ve researched the condition a lot and have tried cutting foods from my diet but nothing seems to help me get any better.

‘This is a really debilitating condition and I wouldn’t even wish upon my worst enemy.’

Miss Horner first experienced minor sickness-related symptoms when she was 13-years-old but the condition was dismissed as a strong virus.

Her mother, Christine McKegney, took her to the hospital but nothing could be found.

Two years later in 2007 her mother died of lung cancer, at the age of 52, leaving Miss Horner to deal with the unusual symptoms on her own.

Four years later the condition returned. At the same time she started dating boyfriend Paul Driver, 25, who has since become her full-time carer.

Miss Horner said: ‘I went from living life to its fullest at university with a job to being bedridden.

‘It was a really bad time for us to meet, but he has been amazing and hasn’t left my side.

‘Anyone else would have run a mile, but to me he’s been my rock and I don’t know what I’d do without him.

‘At first he used to be terrified when I was ill but now he is used to the routine of me going to hospital for a few days and then coming back when I’m better.

‘I do worry about our future and us having children, because if I have a bad episode while I’m pregnant there’s a good chance our baby wouldn’t survive.

‘Also I’m scared of walking down the aisle in case I’m spontaneously sick.

‘Thankfully Paul can see past it all and I’m so glad he loves me despite my condition – I really don’t know what I’d do without him.’

Dr Robin Dover, Chair of the Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome Association UK, said: ‘CVS is a poorly understood condition in which the sufferers are usually healthy and normal between episodes but have debilitating attacks of relentless nausea and vomiting.

‘Attacks last between one to four days for most people, but can last as long as two weeks in extreme cases, with vomiting up to six times an hour.

‘Attacks in some sufferers happen in a regular pattern, i.e. every couple of weeks or months.

‘In others there is no clear pattern.’


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