Woman ‘nearly dies’ and develops psychosis after stomach ache turns out to be gallstones

Joanna Hodgkiss developed gallstones that blocked her bile duct. (SWNS)
Joanna Hodgkiss developed gallstones that blocked her bile duct. (SWNS)

A woman says she nearly died and developed psychosis after being diagnosed with gallstones – which she first thought was a severe stomach ache.

Joanna Hodgkiss, 44, suddenly developed a stomach ache and doctors suspected she could be having an ectopic pregnancy, but further tests revealed that it was gallstones.

"My diet wasn't bad, I didn't particularly eat any fatty foods and I didn't drink to any excessive amount,” Hodgkiss, an NHS manager, from Birmingham, says.

"I was walking 10,000 steps a day as a non negotiable. I was fit and kind of healthy, never in my life did I expect anything like this to happen.”

Hodgkiss adds that there were no warning signs that the gallstones had developed, and that her doctors have no idea how she developed the condition, but she wants others to get checked out if they feel pain.

She says that she felt a ‘strange’ sensation in her chest after attending a concert in July 2023, and afterwards had ‘really bad stomach pains’ and was encouraged to go to the hospital by her husband.

This is when gallstones were discovered to be blocking her bile duct. Hodgkiss went straight into resus before heading to the ITU for a four week stay and lots of operations.

Hodgkiss describes the experience as ‘scary’ and says she went from getting her hair done for a big night out one day, to being attached to machines the next.

"I suppose at the beginning you don't really know where you are, then you kind of realise how ill you are. It's just so scary, the fact you almost died,” she says.

"I was screaming in pain. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life. The impact of it now, but I still got a drain in. I've got a draw blood operation soon and I'm still not back to work and so the financial impact is huge.

Joanna is still recovering nearly nine months after she was first diagnosed.(SWNS)
Joanna is still recovering nearly nine months after she was first diagnosed.(SWNS)

"At one point my daughter was scared to be around me because I was so thin and kept vomiting everywhere and she didn't want to be around me."

After the gallstones were discovered, Hodgkiss’s weight plummeted from 10st 1lb to 7st 5lbs in just two months, which led the mum to require a feeding tube.

The gallstones also led to sepsis, she battled two bouts of deep vein thrombosis, and she even developed ITU psychosis – a disorder where patients experience serious psychiatric symptoms and led Hodgkiss to believe that the doctors and nurses had kidnapped her.

"I thought the doctors and nurses had kidnapped me and I phoned my brother in the middle of the night to come and get me from hospital," she explains.

Hodgkiss also had to learn how to walk again due to the amount of time she spent in the ITU ward and the lack of feeling in her legs, but was able to go home in January 2024.

"My weight is pretty much back to normal now, so the weight is stabilised. I'm getting fitter every day but there is still lots I can't do,” she adds.

"I've still got a drain in, so life isn't quite back to normal. I will always have the upmost thanks to the doctors and nurses for saving my life in the ITU.”

Gallstones signs, causes and treatment

The NHS says gallstones generally only cause symptoms when they block the bile duct, which is what can cause sudden and severe stomach pain that can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

This pain is most often felt in the centre of your stomach, or just under your ribs on the right hand side, where it can spread to your side or up to your shoulder blade.

The exact cause of gallstones is unknown, but it’s thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance, and treatment depends on how much the gallstones are impacting your everyday life.

Health: Read more