A COURAGEOUS young woman who nearly died of a debilitating bowel condition has launched a blog to reduce the stigma surrounding the illness.

Mareta Greig was 20 when she was eventually diagnosed with ulcerative colitis — an inflammatory bowel disease which causes inflammation which can lead to bleeding, diarrhoea, pain, profound fatigue and anaemia, as well as vomiting. 

Mareta, who lives in Port Glasgow, coped with the condition for a decade despite periods of being on and off steroids.

But earlier this year her health worsened and she suffered serious complications leaving doctors battling to save her life and left with no option but to remove her large bowel.

Mareta is now on a mission to break the stigma surrounding inflammatory bowel disease through her Facebook blog ‘Can’t Live Without — The Semicolon Diaries’.

The inspirational 30-year-old told the Tele: “I have a new appreciation for things in life that I didn’t before.

“I used to live at 100mph and I was always thinking about the next thing but not now. 

“I appreciate every minute with friends and family and realise that I am still me, just a better version on the inside.”

Mareta says that when she was growing up she suffered from symptoms and was hospitalised twice before she was diagnosed in 2007.

She said: “When I was at university it was hard as I was extremely tired and my life revolved around where a bathroom was.

“It’s embarrassing when you’re younger.

“When I was diagnosed, I was glad to know what it was because I was so ill with it.”

After being diagnosed Mareta, who lives in Ardenclutha Drive, was on and off steroids and suffered a series of flare-ups.

She said: “There were times when it flared up and times it was good.

“I just got on with my life.

“I didn’t let it hold me back.”

At the tail end of 2015, Mareta started to feel unwell again so she went to get checked out.

She added: “I had tonsillitis and felt constantly run down so I was advised to come off the immunosuppressant drug that I had been taking.”

Mareta recovered and said 2016 was one of the best years of her life as she was off medication and felt great.

But in January this year, during a trip to London with friends, Mareta suddenly felt ill again.

She said: “I came home and went to the nurse and got the usual blood tests.

“My readings were off the scale.

“I remember saying to my mum, this is really bad this time.

“One thing led to another and I got worse and over the next few weeks, nothing was working.

“On March 4 this year I went up to hospital and I never left until April 27.

“The doctors and nurses were amazing.

“I was put on intravenous steroids but they were not working so then they tried infliximab, which is quite a toxic drug.

“That night I got a blood transfusion and afterwards I was in and out of sleep.

“The doctors told my mum that I was seriously ill and that they were trying everything they could to save my life and save my bowel.”

Over the next few days, Mareta’s condition improved but she suddenly deteriorated again and surgeons were forced to act to save her life.

She said: “I woke up one morning, went for a shower and when I came out and got changed, I was freezing cold to touch but sweating at the same time.

“I knew that there was something wrong.

“I emailed the specialist nurse and within 15 minutes she came in with the surgeon who held my hand and told me ‘Mareta your bowel is perforating and if we don’t take you to surgery, you’re going to die’.

“I remember crying and saying ‘I’ll live with whatever you give me but don’t let me die, I have just turned 30, there is no way that this is happening to me’. 

“My mum jokes now that if they’d said to me we have to put a bag over your head then I would’ve said that’s fine because I was so ill and I just wanted to get better.”

Mareta’s surgery happened just in time.

She said: “Effectively they removed my large bowel.

“I had to get 40 stitches so I have a scar the whole length of my abdomen.”

The surgeons carried out an ileostomy procedure where the small bowel is diverted through an opening in the tummy.

The opening is known as a stoma and a special bag is placed over the stoma on the abdomen to collect waste products.

Mareta added: “The stoma is about the size of a strawberry, it just looks like a birth mark.”

Following surgery, Mareta faced yet another battle in her recovery as she suffered complications.

She said: “I ended up catching an infection from the line that they had stitched into my neck and another infection from the all the tubes, and I also had a blood clot.

“I had zero luck!

“They said I was malnourished so my body was just fighting to get better.

“I had to learn to walk again because I was so malnourished.

“You don’t realise how weak you become after lying in bed for that long.

“I also lost some of my hair, I was bald on top but it’s grown back in.

“You’ve just got to get on with it.”

Mareta, who works as a project manager at Inverclyde Care and Repair, has since made a full recovery and says she feels like she has a second chance at life.

She said: “This is the healthiest I have ever felt.
“I also have a totally different outlook on life, I appreciate everything now.

“I’m so thankful that I’m here.

“I couldn’t wait to get back to work.

“I just wanted to get back to normal life and just be me.”

Mareta says she has been overwhelmed by the response to her blog, which she set up to help other people going through similar experiences.

She said: “The first video I posted has been viewed over 14,000 times.

“I never thought for one moment that it was going to be that way.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people whose stories are so much worse than mine.

“It’s been inspiring for me to hear from other people who have been through similar experiences.

“I wanted to put this out there to hopefully help other people who are going through similar things and show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel and you can talk about it.

“We talk a lot about cancer and other illnesses but nobody talks about inflammatory bowel disease because it’s something that has a stigma.

“So I will use this blog to engage with people around the globe who have been through similar experiences and give them a platform to be proud of themselves and really raise awareness of inflammatory bowel disease.”

Mareta hopes that by speaking out, people understand more about stoma bags.

She added: “I suppose in this day and age of Facebook and Instagram, everybody is so conscious of what they look like.

“But life can change in a split second, you never know what will happen.

“For me it’s important that people are not embarrassed by it.

“It saved my life, it’s fine.”

Mareta and her family including her mum Maria, stepdad David, dad Adam, stepmum Carol and sister Evie, have raised £400 for Crohn’s and Colitis UK since she left hospital.

Today Mareta is living life to the full, having recently enjoyed trips to New York and Ibiza.

She is keen to thank all her family, friends and work colleagues for their support but is particularly keen to recognise the doctors, nurses and surgeons at Inverclyde Royal Hospital who saved her life.

She said: “They were amazing, especially my surgeon Andrew Jackson, Dr Mohammed Hamed, who is the gastro specialist, and Helen Strain who is the inflammatory bowel disease specialist nurse.”