EXCLUSIVE: Woman, 20, who nearly DIED from rare condition that stops her from EATING lays bare brutal reality of living with the illness that has left her completely bedridden and in ‘constant severe pain’
A woman suffering from a rare medical condition that causes excruciating pain, extreme nausea, and even paralyzed her stomach has faced the brutal reality of her illness.
Cara Bowman, of Mississippi, takes to social media to shed light on what life is like for people suffering from vascular compression syndromes — a group of conditions that occur when a person’s blood vessels are under abnormal pressure.
The 20-year-old has candidly described her extensive surgeries and hospital stays, as well as how she navigates the emotional and physical challenges that come with it.
She now hopes to raise awareness of the “debilitating” conditions and “the impact they have on everyday life.”
Cara Bowman, from Mississippi, uses social media to shed light on what life is like for people suffering from vascular compression syndromes
The 20-year-old has candidly described her extensive surgeries and hospital stays, as well as how she navigates the emotional and physical challenges that come with it
Speaking of her experience with the little-known conditions, which are difficult to diagnose, Cara said, “Living with vascular compressions has completely changed my life.
“Most days I am bedridden and unable to participate in simple daily tasks due to the lack of energy due to constant severe pain and the inability to eat much.
“Socializing has become a challenge because many activities revolve around food, which I have to avoid.”
From an early age, Cara was an active and healthy child. She put her energy into gymnastics and showed tremendous promise as a young athlete before moving into competitive cheerleading.
‘My heart was in the gym, so I also took tumbling lessons once or twice a week for years. I loved traveling and always being with my friends,” she explained.
But Cara’s life took an unexpected turn when she started experiencing extreme stomach pain and nausea.
After numerous medical exams and consultations, doctors diagnosed her with Crohn’s disease, and with diligent treatment, it eventually went into remission.
But just as Cara was beginning to find hope, new symptoms emerged and months later it became clear that her gallbladder was the culprit.
Cara underwent surgery to remove her gallbladder in January 2022, but instead of the expected improvement, her condition worsened and a new diagnosis came in July 2022.
Cara underwent surgery to remove it in January 2022, but instead of the expected improvement, her condition worsened and a new diagnosis came in July 2022: gastroparesis (a condition that paralyzes the stomach).
“It is concerning that these health problems occurred without an identifiable cause, especially for a healthy young person in their 20s. Despite multiple visits to the emergency room, there were no clear answers,” she said.
What are Vascular Compression Syndromes?
Vascular compression syndromes are a group of conditions that occur when a person’s blood vessels are under abnormal pressure, limiting the size of the blood vessel and the amount of blood that flows through it.
The lack of blood flow can make a person feel weak, can cause mild to extreme pain, and will show different symptoms from person to person.
Vascular compressions can take place in different parts of the body.
Compression syndromes have different names depending on where in the body the problem is.
Due to the variety of syndromes and symptoms, they can often be misdiagnosed. This can lead to years of pain, frustration and mental anguish.
Frustrated by months of failed treatments, Cara embarked on a journey to find the root of her ongoing health problems.
She revealed, “I turned to TikTok for answers. On the platform I met friends who encouraged me to watch vascular compressions – a term I had never heard before.
“I learned that vascular compression syndromes are unusual medical conditions in which arteries and ligaments are squeezed or squeezed by other arteries and ligaments.
“These conditions can lead to intense pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and possible malnutrition.
“It was also quite common to have multiple hospital stays or emergency room visits to get the necessary pain relief and nutritional support.”
The discovery led Cara to finally meet with a vascular surgeon who immediately identified the compression.
The diagnosis led to her undergoing surgery on April 24, 2023, which brought some relief.
However, Cara’s battle is far from over and she still struggles with excruciating pain.
“Being in severe pain every day for months to years and having nothing to relieve it is physically exhausting. But mentally it’s more challenging because I’m constantly trying to stay positive,” she admitted.
“The hardest thing for me is watching my friends live a life that I know I could if I wasn’t so sick. It’s hard to see how people go to work, to school, to parties, gatherings, how they get married and have children.
“Those are all big dreams that will never be achievable because of my health.”
Cara is forced to make several lifestyle changes due to vascular compressions.
‘I had to switch from physical to online school in my first year of study. I also constantly watch what I eat, because otherwise I could end up in the emergency room.’
Despite her enormous challenges, Cara maintains an unwavering positivity and sees her faith as a driving force.
Despite her enormous challenges, Cara maintains an unwavering positivity and sees her faith as a driving force
She now hopes to raise awareness about the ‘debilitating’ conditions and ‘the impact they have on everyday life’
She believes she is being used by God to help others, giving her the strength to stay positive in the midst of misery.
Cara offers this advice to those who share her diagnosis: “Hold the faith and trust that there is a purpose to every struggle.”
Awareness about vascular compressions is limited and Cara is now passionately advocating for more research and understanding.
She wants people to understand the debilitating nature of these conditions, stressing that it’s far from just a stomach ache.
“When I first got sick, I knew absolutely nothing about vascular compressions. Now that I have more experience, I wish more people knew and understood how debilitating these conditions are,” said Cara.
“It’s not just abdominal pain that goes away on its own. Very little research has been done on it, so many go months, if not years, without a diagnosis.
“My ultimate goal is to share my story not just with my followers, but with the world, inspiring and supporting others facing similar challenges. I want to make people aware of vascular compressions and the impact they have on daily life.’