A TEENAGER has told of her two-year fight for a diagnosis after doctors dismissed her debilitating abdominal pain as âjust anxiety.â
Lara Fox-Hill, 16, had been handed a leaflet about mental health care after she sought medical help in 2019.
She eventually discovered the excruciating pain she was experiencing was caused by endometriosis.
But medics allegedly told her the pain was a result of her mind playing tricks.
Lara said: âBeing gaslighted by medical staff was quite isolating.
âThey tried to make me believe I had anxiety and that was causing me physical pain.
âI was 14, I was just becoming a teen and building my confidence; it was quite a scarring experience.â
The schoolgirl also claims that when she returned to the Wexham Park Hospital in Berkshire in March 2021 she was sent home with two tablets of paracetamol.
She said: âIt was during lockdown and I had to go alone.
âI had packed an overnight bag because the pain was so intense I thought Iâd be hospitalised.
âInstead they gave me pain killers and dismissed me.
âI dragged my bag to a bench and then I sobbed until my parents arrived.â
Lara claims that members of staff would not believe she was old enough to experience endometriosis.
The condition – which affects one in ten women worldwide – refers to when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside in the abdomen and bleeds.
It took Lara 18 months and three operations to be treated successfully.
She said: âThe doctors would say that I was too young to experience such a grown up woman problem, or that I didnât have the ârightâ type of pain.
âBut at some point I was bleeding 24/7, fainting three times a week and was unable to walk.
âEvery day I would get no sleep, get up and take up to six baths a day to be able to manage the pain enough to read a book in the afternoon.
âAfter consulting numerous experts I received my final surgery by the NHS in June and it was like I was reborn.â
Laraâs mum, Diane Fox-Hill, 54, also suffers from endometriosis.
But despite her knowledge, she struggled to find help for her child.
Diane said: âBecause Lara was under 16, we needed a competent paediatric gynaecologist, a paediatric surgeon and a paediatric theatre for the operation, which are not easy to find.
âThere is so much work to do in the UK to allow young women to be diagnosed at an earlier stage and give them a pain-free life.â
Lara did not let her pain stop her and bravely caught up on school work she had missed.
And in September she returned to Sir William Borlaseâs Grammar School in Marlow.
She said: âBeing back in a classroom was like a prize.
âI went on a journey and my body didnât feel mine for so long.
âIâm excited that my new classmates will get to know me pain-free. I am myself again.â
Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Wexham Park Hospital – said: âWe are sorry to hear about Laraâs experience and would encourage her and her family to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) team so we can review her case.â
Endometriosis UK said: âSadly, we often hear stories of those experiencing symptoms of endometriosis being dismissed, or told that theyâre being overdramatic or that itâs all in their head, and having to visit their GP or attend A&E multiple times before finally being believed and taken seriously.
“As awareness and understanding of endometriosis grows, we hope that comments like this become a thing of the past.
âIt’s important that anyone reporting symptoms of endometriosis is listened to and believed, and offered the right care at the right time, which could include mental health support if they want to access it.
âPeriod pain that interferes with your life is not just ‘part of being a woman’ and something you simply should be expected to put up with.”
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