Crohn’s Disease: ‘My stomach pains were like a scene from Alien’

The Nottingham Post posted an article today about Crohn’s Disease. In this article they interviewed a  man named Matthew Littlewood, who is 39 years old. Here is the article:

Crohn’s disease: ‘My stomach pains were like a scene from Alien’

By Nottingham Post  |  Posted: July 08, 2014

Matthew Littlewood pictured alongside his family, at their home in Southwell. From left: Matthew Littlewood, 39, Finn Littlewood, 2, Rachel Malone, 40, and Erin Hayball, 12. Matthew Littlewood pictured alongside his family, at their home in Southwell. From left: Matthew Littlewood, 39, Finn Littlewood, 2, Rachel Malone, 40, and Erin Hayball, 12.

FOR nearly 20 years Matthew Littlewood has been trapped in a “living nightmare”.  Every day, the 39-year-old dad from Southwell deals with crippling abdominal pain, chronic fatigue and malnutrition brought on by Crohn’s disease.  Such is the severity of his illness that Mr Littlewood had to undergo an eight-hour operation to remove his colon and have a colostomy bag fitted.

“My dreams for the future have been destroyed,” the former QMC nurse says. “All I ever wanted was to be a nurse, and I was a nurse, but now I am not and never will be again – it is pretty hard to come to terms with that.

“My partner’s dreams have been destroyed, too. She works when she can but we can’t have holidays and our social life is almost non-existent.

“Going out for dinner is like planning a military operation.”

Mr Littlewood, who lives in Norwood Gardens with fiancée Rachel Malone, 40, son Finn Littlewood, 2, and stepdaughter Erin Hayball, 13, was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2011.

However, he has been suffering with the symptoms of the illness, which include passing blood and stomach pains “which feel like that scene out of Alien” since he was 20 years old.

He said: “I had a three-month period of strong abdominal pains and bleeding when I was around 20.

“I didn’t go to the doctor because I just brushed it off as irritable bowel syndrome. And, to be honest, it is difficult to talk about things that are so embarrassing.

“Then when I was 24, I got a rectal abscess, which was so painful. I had it for a month before going to the doctor, who thought it could be a hernia and referred me to a specialist.”

Mr Littlewood went on to suffer chronic constipation, which left his colon completely blocked, and fistulas.

The fistulas would break the surface of the skin on Mr Littlewood’s buttocks where they would leak puss, blood and waste.

Surgeons put a stitch into the fistulas to create a perpetual drain, which eased the symptoms for a time.

However, on January 1, 2010, Mr Littlewood fell more ill than he had ever been. He recalled: “I had never felt so ill. I had crippling abdominal pain. I was going to the toilet 20 or 30 times a day, passing blood and nothing else, and the fistulas were growing.”

In a bid to ease Mr Littlewood’s pain, surgeons cut out a large section of his buttocks leaving him “terribly scarred”. However, the decision was finally taken to remove his colon and fit a colostomy bag instead.

He said: “I feel the best that I ever have but I know that it won’t last; it hangs over you.

“I want more people to be aware of the condition because it is an invisible illness.

“On the outside I look fine but I am constantly exhausted.

“It’s like having flu but without the sniffles and sneezes, along with a constant feeling of heartburn – all day, everyday.

“It is almost impossible to sleep; it is like being a living zombie.”

More than 260,000 people in the UK are thought to be living with inflammatory bowel disease – the umbrella which Crohn’s comes under – and a further 10,000 cases are diagnosed each year.

Medical research and patient support charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK – with support from the Big Lottery – embarked on a four-year research project into the causes and symptoms of chronic fatigue for the estimated 260,000 people living with inflammatory bowel disease.

People with Crohn’s and colitis will now be able to measure the severity and impact of their fatigue objectively using the newly-researched and validated inflammatory bowel disease Fatigue Scale, which is available on

Helen Terry, director of patient support and information at Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: “Some doctors and nurses are unaware of how much fatigue can affect people with inflammatory bowel disease and many do not ask about it during an appointment.

“We are asking everyone with inflammatory bowel disease to make sure that they have told their healthcare professionals about this under- recognised symptom.

“We hope that the Fatigue Scale will greatly improve the quality of discussions between patients and their doctors.”

Dr Nina Lewis, a consultant gastroenterologist at Nottingham City Hospital said: “Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are a common cause of ill health, affecting approximately 0.5% people in the UK and cost the NHS an estimated £720 million each year.

Despite lots of research, the cause Crohn’s disease remains largely unknown, although major advances have been made in the last few years.

“If you develop diarrhoea, abdominal pain and or weight loss lasting for several weeks or longer, it is important to see your doctor to make sure there is nothing wrong.”

THE Only Way Is Essex star Sam Faiers was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease following her Celebrity Big Brother stint in January.

She is now helping patient support charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK to improve awareness of the condition.

“The exhaustion I experienced was horrible, life- limiting and a typically untreated symptom for people with Crohn’s or colitis,” she said.

“This new Fatigue Scale is a breakthrough and will make talking to my doctors much, much easier.

“This really is great news for everyone with inflammatory bowel disease or similar conditions.”

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