Patient Story: Stuart Briggs

Stuart Briggs was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in 2010.

Here is Stuart’s story – taken from his website http://www.stuartbriggs.co.uk/sarcoidosis/

Sarcoidosis diagnosis was by lung biopsy on Friday 15th October and skin biopsy on 23rd of December 2010. being diagnosed as a sarcoidosis sufferer was a real shock… 

In 2000, my dentist could not fathom out what was going on with my gums though he did ask if I had diabetes? As my breath sometimes smelt and tasted somewhat metallic-ish which are symptoms, I got checked for diabetes and was all clear. Then, at the Leeds dental hospital, it was mentioned that my gums seemed to be over reacting to plaque and food, etc. but no further action was required. In 2001, I told my X-wife something felt not right with me; was it all in my mind that I just did not feel ok but continued with work and cycling. I told all this to my boss. 

In 2002, I put all my problems down to a difficult divorce and subsequent lack of contact with my sons; without giving too much detail, I lost my job and began on a spiral the wrong way up. Fast forward to 2006, I started going to my Doctors with many various problems, most of these were put down to the personal stress of the previous 4 years. I decided to return to manufacturing (I had re-trained and qualified as a plumber since 2003). 

Managing to get various contracts from CNC machine setter to improvements engineer to manufacturing management, I spent the next couple of years from job to job, some good jobs though still not settling within any of those organisations, to be honest it could be said that my diet (food and drink) did not help. A complete change of working direction – again – was required. 

Start of 2009, a friend managed to help me achieve employment as an Art technician within her school, I also started part time employment as a healthcare support worker, towards to end of 2009 I had decided I found the support worker position more rewarding, something else though, while working in the school I could feel a little nervous when shouting and/or conflict happened in class etc. I was offered a full time position as healthcare support worker at Airedale Hospital. 

Great stuff, found my niche within the hospital, proper enjoyed the work and was able to offer my manufacturing background to help improve the hospital. After 4 weeks, a work colleague mentioned my eyes looked terrible, and so did I feel terrible which ended up a few days on the sick, I returned and got on with my role again; few weeks later, I had another bout of illness but it was difficult trying to explain that I just felt stupidly tired? Returned again and a few weeks later I had a proper bad tummy upset but it was more like cramps than diarrhoea, I returned again but a few weeks later it was the tiredness again, I wondered how am I going to explain this-unfortunately I made a slight excuse but not a complete lie-I cant lie as folks know, I just dislike lies… Back to work and then it was a visit to the BBC as I was taking part on the Genius program. 

Well, my good friend drove us down to London (I have a few good friends!!!), we got to the studios but my eyes started feeling really really not good, this happened through out the recording-haven’t a clue what I looked like on the episode showing as I decided not to watch it. We got back to our hotel and I just needed to lay flat on my tummy with my face tucked well into the pillows, felt terrible. 

On the way home, he took me to the Accident & Emergency, they tested me and simply stated I was having a migraine! I told them I wasn’t as I just felt really really strange. I went back to work the next day, I felt terrible though but I just could not go on the sick yet again, then work colleagues and even patients started asking me what my strange cough was, hmmm-I had been coughing for a few week, but ignored it. I drove home after my shift in June 2010 and haven’t been back since… 

In those first few weeks, I went to A & E 9 times, Doctors many times, still they seemed to just be guessing but mainly that I was having a prolonged attack of Mumps (my face had swollen massively), after 4 weeks and seeing all my Doctors the senior doc simply put his hands up and said they didn’t know and sent me straight away to the Ear Nose Throat & Eye department as a casualty. In the meantime, I had started to really worry.

Upon arriving, I was seen pretty quick, was well checked and she said that I definitely had Mumps? But she wanted the main nose consultant to check me, he checked me and used the endoscopy to check through my left nostril, said he thinks the Mumps is correct but can I wait outside the room while the report is wrote, I still did not agree with him. While waiting, my eyes completely went bonkers, proper painful (I am now glad they did) as by the time I went back in I told him, he had a look and tested for dryness, they were almost completely dry. Upon checking me again, he mentioned Sjogrens Syndrome and sent me for x-ray and bloods (bloods again!!!); in the meantime, my eyes recovered. 

A few days later, I was called to the Hospital, got to the department, went in his office and was told I had shadows in my chest and need a CT scan, I asked was it cancer, he did not know as it was not his department … woah my world caved in, I was now naturally convinced its cancer, gone from Mumps to Sjogrens to Cancer in the space of a few weeks (the fantastic lovely guy who sang with my band had died from cancer just 3 months earlier). In the meantime, I had my left Colon checked as I had some problems in that area – tummy full of air=erm… 

A couple of days later, I had stupendous pains in my eyes and blurred vision, went to the A & E again (twice in 6 hours during the night) and to my surprise they did not know what it was. The next day, I went to the docs first thing, he said my pupils had fixed and were no longer functioning, so I was sent straight to the eye casualty department, BiLateral Uveitis was confirmed, they said it could be related to everything else my body was doing, no more driving – but I also can’t afford it now. 

That wait for the CT scan was the feeling of forever, one week is all I had to wait which is very fast, I had the scan and was told they will contact me (I have never been so scared in my life-I kept breaking down, I needed hugs). I got a call to go see the chest specialist. I went to see him early Sept, got sat down and he said it could be something called Sarcoidosis and appeared non malignant as amongst other things it is a cancer mimicking and masking condition, I needed a lung biopsy, but he wanted this doing by the top man!!! I told him about my ankles, eyes and other things, he had a look and called in other consultants, seems they had never seen all these symptoms on one person before? 

Hmmm, 2 weeks and time for the lung biopsy, those weeks were completely terrifying and in all honestly lonely, I finally realised just how single and alone I was, hey I have the most fantastic of sons, but they only stay with me a maximum 1-2 nights a week. My brother took me to the Hospital, finally went into theatre, had some drugs (the drugs should have subdued me so I didn’t remember it-more on that soon!), laid on my left side and oxygen on nose, throat sprayed, mouth vice’d and kept open, then I looked at this massive tube woah, “just swallow normally Stuart”, clug clug clug, arrggghhh, clug clug “your doing fine Stuart”  clug clug clug, thought I was dying and couldn’t breath, “breath nice and easy through your nose Stuart, your doing fine”, then I saw 3 smaller tubes inserted and taken out, wow what a wierd sensation but then they started removing the tube against the swallowing reaction, CLUG CLUG CLUG WOAH WOAH what is that all about. Once out of theatre, a nurse and porter were waiting for me, they thought I would be subdued but me, I would not shut up talking about music, my music, Hendrix, Zep-talk about talking I was high as a kite ha. 

I should have spent the night in hospital but I got dressed, asked my brother to come and pick me up, discharge notes and off we went. 

15th of Oct 2010 arrived for me to go see the consultant, everything was confirmed and still in early stages. 

Yeah shock at my healthy self was something weird, in 2009 I took part in a government scheme (Biobank), I have all the paperwork stating I was in the healthiest fittest 3% of the age range 40-69 but now I am probably in the 3% unhealthiest. Its possibly that my forcefulness through the docs and various departments might be a reason why we have caught it early? 

Think what my full thoughts are more and more, potentially I have had this a very long time, hence the dentist in 2000 and my trying to tell my X wife just how ill I could feel, when just having a cold I was absolutely exhausted physically and mentally etc. though never believed by anyone especially the closest one. Did working with very ill folks (who happen to cough and splutter over you) finally trigger it to this? 

My (October 2010) battle of adjustment to Sarcoidosis is just beginning, those very ill folks with this-well what do I say, my complete heartfelt thoughts go to you all and I honestly hope you do improve, having this I cannot pretend I hope you recover, it’s a truth of the word “meaningful”… 

Stuart.