A MOTHER today delivered a chilling warning about the dangers of alcoholic liver disease.
Joanne Patterson needs to take almost 100 tablets each week to stay alive and says she lives day-to-day, not knowing when her liver will fail.
The Hendon 41-year-old first started drinking regularly in her late teens but quickly became a serious alcoholic, drinking three or four bottles of wine and about eight cans of lager a day.
“In the past 18 months I have been in hospital for over 300 days,” said Joanne, who was diagnosed aged 39.
“I have been diagnosed with chronic liver disease and I have portal hypertension (when blood builds up and the vein bursts).
“I’ve also had peritonitis (which affects the blood) and septicaemia.
“I was on the infection control ward for three weeks.
“I’ve had fluid removed from my stomach with just a needle, I’ve haemorrhaged and had three blood transfusions including a full body transfusion.
“All of this is a result of drinking alcohol and thinking that it wouldn’t happen to me.”
As well as health issues, mum-of-three Joanne was caught drink-driving when three times over the legal limit.
Her story comes as North East alcohol office Balance released figures showing hospital admissions for those in their early 30s with alcoholic liver disease have rocketed by more than 400 per cent in the North East, compared to 61 per cent nationally.
Hospitals in the region dealt with 189 hospital admissions for 30 to 34-year-olds with the disease last year, compared to just 37 in 2002.
Balance director Colin Shevills said: “These figures are extremely worrying and demonstrate how starting to drink alcohol at a young age can have a serious impact on your health.
“Our region is drinking too much from an early age driven by alcohol which is too affordable, too available and too heavily promoted.
“It is particularly concerning as here in the North East we have the highest rate in England of 11 to 15-year-olds who drink in England, and the highest rate of under-18s admitted to hospital because of alcohol.”
Joanne now faces an anxious wait to find out if she can get on the organ donor list for a liver transplant.
“I live day to day not knowing if my liver will fail,” she added.
“Despite my story I’m not anti-drink but people need to be aware of the serious damage that they can do to themselves just by drinking too much. I wasn’t.
“I’d advise people just to watch what they drink.
“I’m not just one case and you’re wrong if you think it can’t happen to you.
“You know when it starts to creep up on you and alcohol becomes a habit.
“Like me it can start with a couple of glasses of wine with friends and then escalate.”
A life threatening habit
A SUNDERLAND Royal Hospital gastroenterology consultant has warned that liver disease is fast becoming a big problem.
James Crosbie said: “Here in Sunderland we continue to see people in their 20s and 30s presenting with severe liver disease related to alcohol, and we know that the incidence is increasing.
“This can be cirrhosis, which is irreversible damage caused by years of drinking.
“These patients can suffer years of ill health and premature death, some may need to be considered for a liver transplant.
“But alcohol also causes severe liver inflammation, known as alcoholic hepatitis, which develops more quickly.
“As well as being immediately life-threatening, this condition also accelerates the risk of developing cirrhosis for those who recover.
“So we know that reducing the amount of alcohol that harmful drinkers consume will have an immediate life saving effect, by reducing the incidence of alcoholic hepatitis as well as improving health and reducing the risk of cirrhosis in the longer term”.