A brave student — who will never eat a meal again due to a chronic digestive condition — has found solace in vlogging on YouTube to help others.
Hannah Ritchie, 20, will never enjoy her favorite pizza, cookies or steak and must receive her nutrition through an IV, because she gets sick every time she eats. She hasn’t eaten a meal since July, as her incurable case of gastroparesis leaves her stomach muscles paralyzed.
Officially diagnosed in February, the illness left Ritchie vomiting six times a day and running to the toilet up to 30 times.
Earlier this year, Ritchie, who vlogs about her chronic illness on YouTube, underwent surgery to cut the pylorus, a muscle that allows emptying of the stomach. When that didn’t work, she was fitted with a temporary feeding tube which bypassed her stomach and fed nutrition directly into her small intestine via her nose.
Ritchie, a journalism student from Vermilion, Ohio, stopped eating completely after her surgery in July, and her condition vastly improved.
“At my worst point I was throwing up six times a day. I was going to the bathroom about 30 times every day when I was 16. My life was miserable and I was really sick,” she said.
“I had a surgery in July [where] I was fitted with a temporary feeding tube. I was hooked up to it 23 and a half hours a day and it basically gave me my life back. I didn’t have to worry about eating anymore and getting sick from it. In September I got a permanent feeding tube fitted.”
Ritchie is now trying to adapt to a life without food.
“I miss everything. Pizza, steak, pasta, bread, cookies. Everything,” she said.
Ritchie, a part-time reservations assistant, says it can be difficult to watch her sisters Haley, 16, Olivia, 12, and Allaina, 12, have the experiences she missed out on.
“I never got to have that typical high school experience which I get really sad about. My sister Haley is so involved in her high school and band which can be hard for me, but I love her so much I can’t be resentful.
“I wish I could just get up and go to university like a normal person but I just can’t. Sometimes it feels very unfair. But at the same time, I can’t let it control my life,” she said.
Ritchie, however, said she is learning to enjoy activities and trips by planning ahead.
“Last September I went on a family vacation to Europe and even though it took so much planning with my illness, it was the most rewarding experience.”
Ritchie said she would never have been able to cope with her illness without her pharmacist mother Julie Ritchie, 46, and her dad Scott, 49.
She hopes her condition will improve enough to complete her online journalism degree and eventually make way for a normal life.
“I cannot control my illness, but I can control how I look at the world and how I approach my life,” added Ritchie. “And hopefully this decision will allow me to have a better quality one.”
Gastroparesis affects more than 1.5 million individuals in the U.S., 100,000 of whom suffer from severe cases, according to Pharmacy Times. It can be caused by diabetes, a reaction to medication, or neurological disorders, but in Ritchie’s case, doctors are unsure of the trigger.