It's nearly impossible to imagine being allergic to water. However, 25-year-old Tessa Hansen-Smith of Fresno, California, experiences that reality every day of her life.
Tessa breaks out in welts and hives when water, including her own tears and sweat, hits her skin. When she drinks water, she feels a burning sensation in her throat and throughout her body.
Yet, Tessa is optimistic and courageous, with big plans for her future. She is one strong young lady!
When Water Becomes The Enemy
We take for granted things like hot showers, trips to the lake or ocean in the summer, a vigorous walk on a pretty day, snowball fights, and the healing release of a good cry, but these are activities that provide no comfort for Tessa. That's because she has been diagnosed with a very rare, chronic, and incurable illness known as Aquagenic Urticaria.
Approximately 100-250 people worldwide, mostly women, suffer from Aquagenic Urticaria, according to a report by California's ABC-30. The illness typically appears during or near puberty. Tessa was 8 years old when she began developing symptoms of the rare condition. After years of undergoing testing by specialists, Tessa's mother, Dr. Karen Hansen-Smith diagnosed her daughter.
Dr. Hansen-Smith told ABC-30, "I feel a little guilty as a mom for not having seen when she would get out of the shower that she had hives and figuring it out way earlier that it was a water issue."
Living Life While Allergic To The Water
In spite of her unusual challenges, Tessa graduated high school and attended college at the University of California in Davis. She worked two jobs and was enrolled in a full schedule of classes. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Tessa was forced to return home. With a compromised immune system and declining health, she could no longer safely attend classes.
Tessa makes major lifestyle adjustments in order to stay well. She drinks primarily milk, because the water content in milk is balanced with proteins and fats. Tessa uses cleaning towelettes instead of showering daily, but even those cause pain.
Showering is not common because that simple routine can cause Tessa to pass out or hyperventilate. While she does take leisurely walks from time to time, Tessa must avoid sweating and cannot participate in most summertime activities. And, even though it's isolating to be indoors so much, Tessa has an amazing spirit and attitude-even in light of her most recent health setback.
A Terrible Turn Of Events
After becoming terribly dehydrated, Tessa developed ischemic colitis, which occurs when there is a reduction of blood flow in a segment of the large intestine; that segment is what we know as the colon. While in the hospital, things got worse when Tessa developed blood clots. She shared on Instagram that she had "multiple superficial blood clots and at least one deep blood clot" in her right arm. Before being released, Tessa spent 12 days at Community Regional Medical Center, and her family was left with $10,000 in medical bills after their insurance paid $90,000!
Tessa is back home, receiving physical therapy, working on her art, reading, and hanging out with her pets. She's even contributed to a book entitled Chronically Empowered, sharing her struggles with an exhausting chronic illness in the hope of inspiring and empowering others.
Tessa shared, "I hope that I can go back to school again. I hope that I can get a job again. I hope that I can kind of find a sense of normalcy in life again." Her hopes also include a career in nursing, along with a commitment to trust and believe in patients' symptoms; she knows how it feels to have peers question her and be skeptical of the symptoms she describes.
For now, Tessa is sharing her story and educating people through her online presence. Mom Karen says that "her biggest thing is trying to make people feel better." What a beautiful soul! Though Tessa often feels badly, she strives to make others feel good!
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Romans 8:35
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Featured Image Credit: Youtube/ABC 7 Chicago