Mum of two Anneliese Alarcon, 36, from Warrawong, shares her experience of living with a paralysed stomach.
What’s wrong with me? I thought wearily. I’d been vomiting for days.
As a diabetic, I had to keep a close eye on my food intake and insulin levels, so I rushed to the doctor. After several tests, he concluded I had a problem with my gallbladder.
But after surgery to remove it, the symptoms continued.
Soon after, I fell pregnant with my daughter Alysia, now seven, so investigations had to stop.
After she was born, I was finally diagnosed with gastroparesis. It’s a complication often caused by diabetes.
The vagus nerve controls stomach muscles and tells them when to push food through to the intestine and when to vomit.
High levels of blood sugar can, over time, damage the nerve and paralyse the stomach. Food was just sitting in my stomach, unable to move, until I eventually threw up.
‘It’s incurable,’ the doctor said. I wondered how I would lead a normal life if eating made me sick.
From there, the condition came and went. But when I suffered a flare up, I could vomit constantly for a week.
I had to give up work and stay close to home. My husband Jorge, 39, was supportive and helped me comfort Alysia and her big sister Eleyna, 13.
I tried changing my diet, eating smaller meals and using botox injections to relax the valve between my stomach and intestine, but nothing worked.
In May, I was fitted with a nasogastric feeding tube, to carry food through my nose to my small intestine.
It’s made life easier, but I still vomit and feel self-conscious. Then there was a ray of light – a device that could be fitted in my stomach to regulate the muscles via an electronic signal.
The only thing is, the procedure costs $40,000, so my friends and family are holding a fundraiser for me. I've also set up a GoFundMe page.
When I have it fitted, it will change my life. I can’t wait to feel more like my old self.
Another challenge, and other sufferers face, is the cost of treatment for the condition.
That's why we've started a petition for drugs and treatment to be available on the PBS in NSW.
While life with gastroparesis is difficult, we're determined to raise awareness.
What is gastroparesis?
➜ Gastroparesis is caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which means the stomach can’t empty itself.
➜ Causes include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and some medications.
➜ Treatments include feeding tubes, dietary changes, botox injections to relax the stomach valve and electronic stimulation.