A pretty make-up artist told today how she had become a “human waterbed” after a mystery illness caused her to balloon to almost twice her size – in just six months.
Laura Pell, 34, weighed nine stone (57kg) last summer and kept herself in shape by going to gym three times a week and eating a sensible diet.
But after being struck down with a mystery illness which has baffled doctors, she began to retain fluid which caused her body to swell in size.
She piled on more than a stone in weight in just 24 hours and now tips the scales at 17 stone – and is putting on an average of one-a-half-stone every month.
Laura, who lives with boyfriend Mark Appleby, 30, in Kingsthorpe, Northants., has also been forced to splash out on a completely new set of clothes after going from a trim size 10 to a bulky size 22 since last July.
The once striking brunette has also been forced to give up her job as a wedding make-up artist because she struggles to walk and fears she will end up in a wheelchair if a cure is not found.
She said: “I am in absolute agony and I am struggling to move. The last six months have been hell, and I just have no quality of life.
“When you’re fat you’re supposed to be flabby and wobbly, but my skin is just completely tort and tight.
“I know that some people who look at me in the street must be thinking I’ve just let myself go and eat too much but I actually less than I did before I had this condition.
“I joke to my boyfriend Mark that I’m like Violet from Willy Wonka when she turns into a blueberry – I need to be sent to the juicing room.
“I’m a bit like a human waterbed, I’m just so full of liquid, you can see it in my skin.
“I’ve lost all my confidence and hardly ever see my friends anymore because I can’t leave the house without sweating and hurting.
“My heart rate goes up to about 180 bpm whenever I try to do any form of exercise.
“I have had so many doctors tell me I am a ‘complicated case’, but I know that already. I want someone who knows how to sort this out.
“My boyfriend and my mum are basically my carers now. I’m 34 years old, but I feel like I‘m 90.
“I don’t fit into any of my old clothes and it’s costing a fortune to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes.
“I have two Jack Russell dogs called Sam and Millie and they are often the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, but I can’t even walk them so Mark has to do that.
“I have been with Mark about 18 months but he has stuck by me through all this. I am very lucky he is with me because he loves me, not for how I look.
“When I catch a glimpse of myself in the reflection of a window or mirror I don’t recognise myself.
“I’m used to being ill because of my immune problems, but this has been so tough.”
Laura, who does not have any children, has suffered from Primary Immune Deficiency for years and needs regular injections to replenish plasma levels in her blood.
Last August doctors discovered a benign tumour on her pituitary gland but this was dismissed as a cause to her rapid fluid retention.
She was prescribed powerful diuretics and steroids in an attempt to drain the excess fluid from her body but all treatments have so far failed.
Laura is now planning to see an neurologist and an endocrinologist at a private clinic in Manchester in a desperate bid to find a cure.
Her friends have also rallied round and set up a Facebook group called ‘Laura Needs Our Help’ which already has hundreds of supporters from around the world.
She added: “It was really embarrassing the last time I went for an MRI scan because the machine is quite small and they were afraid that if I went in I would get stuck, so I had to have an alternative CT scan instead.
“No one seems to have any idea what is causing this and I’m genuinely scared I’ll soon end up too large to walk.”