When Jennie Higgins first went to her GP with what she thought was a stomach bug, she never expected to end up having emergency surgery, being in hospital for a month and losing her hair.
But the 28-year-old, from Blackpool, is now determined to raise awareness of her condition and raise money to help others – by shaving off her hair as it started to fall out.
Jennie, who works for T the Halifax, has raised close to £2,000 for Chrohn’s and Colitis UK, since finding out she has Chrohn’s – a condition which causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut.
After life-saving surgery to remove her colon, Jennie now has an ileostomy. Although she felt embarrassed at first, she now says she is happy to talk about it – as ultimately it meant her life was saved.
After suffering an extended bout of sickness and diarrhoea, Jennie found out she was pregnant and initially thought her illness was down to that.
But when it kept getting worse, she attended the walk-in centre and was taken straight into hospital. Sadly, she lost the baby.
She said: “I didn’t have a clue about Crohn’s or colitis before, although I’d heard of it. I’d never really had a flare-up before I got ill and had to go into hospital.
“It’s not a nice thing to talk about, but I think we do need to talk about it. To raise awareness, so people know about the signs and symptoms and what to look for. I’m hoping shaving my head will raise awareness.
“I had emergency surgery and it saved my life. There was no time for me to be prepared for having a stoma. At first I didn’t want anyone to even visit me in hospital, I felt so embarrassed, but everyone has been so supportive. My friends and family, my colleagues and partner Rick have all been amazing.
“I decided when I started losing my hair, as a result of the medication, sickness and being malnourished – I hadn’t eaten really for a few weeks before I had gone into hospital – that I would shave it off and raise money. The Crohn’s and Colitis UK charity have been so helpful.”
• To support Jennie, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jennie-higgins2