Hello, I’m Annabel. It was 1990 when PINNT, then in its third year, came into my life. Suffering malrotation and volvulus at birth, I was left with 6cm of small bowel at 3 days old. Safe to say those early months were very touch-and-go but, remarkably, I went home 9 months later in July 1991, TPN pump in tow.

My sisters, then 5 and 7, were delighted to have their baby sister home at last and I benefitted thoroughly from being the youngest sibling, down to the simple fact I copied their every move! To this day, my parents and I attribute my never-ending appetite and love of food to the family mealtimes we shared every day.

When I first came home, I was on TPN for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. The equipment back then was somewhat larger than it is today and my bedroom seemed to resemble a private hospital ward. I was fed by TPN for 3 years, but apart from rarely eating breakfast and having incredibly shallow baths, I don’t remember much of that time. Fortunately for my parents, I was transitioned off TPN just as I learned how to set the alarm off on the pump in a nightly bid for extra attention…

From the moment I started school, age 5, I promptly decided using the shared toilets was too embarrassing and, for the rest of my school life, managed to avoid ever having to (much to my parents’ surprise, who knew only too well just how frequently I opened my bowels!). At 18, I went to Durham University to study Biology before navigating the workplace in various roles in academic publishing in London.
In my mid-20s I moved to Germany, where I lived and worked for 3 years, something I’m sure my parents never imagined would be possible all those years ago. While there, I fell in love with cycling and quickly started covering 50–100km rides on a regular basis, much to the shock of everyone (including myself) who knew me as decidedly not ‘sporty’. I moved back to the UK in 2018 and went on a couple of bike trips round Scotland and France before the pandemic hit.

Now at 31, I live in Cambridgeshire with my boyfriend and our dog, Stanley. Cooking (and eating!) remains my greatest hobby and if I’m not in the kitchen, you’ll most likely find me outside walking, running, or cycling. Of course, life is not without its small complications – bacterial overgrowth, kidney stones and gall stones have all come along for the ride – but for the most part, I am well and live a normal life.

Being on TPN, having a small bowel, a scar, stints in hospital, they are all things I wear with pride. To my friends, I’m lucky – I get to eat as much as I want. But to me, it serves as a daily reminder that I’ve overcome far worse and am lucky to not only be alive, but to be strong and independent.

All that’s left to say is, thank you. Thank you to Great Ormond Street Hospital for saving my life, thank you to University College Hospital for supporting me through adulthood, and thank you to PINNT for giving my parents the support they needed to navigate a seriously ill child living on TPN. I’m honoured to have been there from (nearly!) the start.

HAN Week