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I was fobbed off as ‘anxious’ by doctors but the truth behind my tummy pain was devastating

A TEENAGER has told of her two-year fight for a diagnosis after doctors dismissed her debilitating abdominal pain as “just anxiety.”

Lara Fox-Hill, 16, had been handed a leaflet about mental health care after she sought medical help in 2019.

Lara, 16, was overwhelmed with pain before her final surgery in June
Pain-free Lara returned to school in September for the first time in 18 months

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: “Being gaslighted by medical staff was quite isolating.

“They tried to make me believe I had anxiety and that was causing me physical pain. 

“I was 14, I was just becoming a teen and building my confidence; it was quite a scarring experience.”

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: “It was during lockdown and I had to go alone.

“I had packed an overnight bag because the pain was so intense I thought I’d be hospitalised.

“Instead they gave me pain killers and dismissed me.

“I dragged my bag to a bench and then I sobbed until my parents arrived.”

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.

Common symptoms and complications include pain during intercourse, heavy periods, infertility and excessive menstrual cramps.

It took Lara 18 months and three operations to be treated successfully. 

She said: “The doctors would say that I was too young to experience such a grown up woman problem, or that I didn’t have the ‘right’ type of pain.

“But at some point I was bleeding 24/7, fainting three times a week and was unable to walk. 

“Every 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.

“After consulting numerous experts I received my final surgery by the NHS in June and it was like I was reborn.”

Lara’s mum, Diane Fox-Hill, 54, also suffers from endometriosis.

But despite her knowledge, she struggled to find help for her child.

Diane said: “Because 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.

“There 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.”

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 Borlase’s Grammar School in Marlow.

She said: “Being back in a classroom was like a prize. 

“I went on a journey and my body didn’t feel mine for so long.

“I’m excited that my new classmates will get to know me pain-free. I am myself again.”

Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Wexham Park Hospital – said: “We are sorry to hear about Lara’s experience and would encourage her and her family to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) team so we can review her case.”

Endometriosis UK said: “Sadly, we often hear stories of those experiencing symptoms of endometriosis being dismissed, or told that they’re being overdramatic or that it’s 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. 

“It’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. 

“Period 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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