Woman has stomach removed, shares struggles with gastroparesis - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Woman has stomach removed, shares struggles with gastroparesis


More than five million Americans are living with gastroparesis.  The condition affects the stomach's ability to empty itself, which can cause nerve damage.

Gastroparesis is often misdiagnosed, and treating it can sometimes prove difficult.  We talked with a local woman suffering from this condition, and the extreme step she's taken to manage the disease, while helping others who have it, too.

Rhonda Dreckman is used to being sick.  She's diabetic, and three years ago was diagnosed with the stomach illness gastroparesis.

"Being in and out of the hospital, constantly throwing up, having upper gastric pain," Dreckman said.

Like Dreckman, many patients are misdiagnosed, since those symptoms are like many other conditions.

"Normally if someone's not had anything to eat for six hours, they should have an empty stomach.  But when we do endoscopies on patients, on people with these conditions, they can have retained food in the stomach.  They can even have what we call bezoars where there's actually a collection of food that's been sitting there and has been there for some time," said Dr. Carline Quander, Covenant Clinic gastroenterologist.

Treating gastroparesis isn't easy.  Dreckman gets scared to eat, not knowing what foods might make her sick, and medicines haven't helped.

"I did try one medication.  It has a side effect that makes you jerk, and I was jerking almost constantly," said Dreckman.

Those issues are what led her to take an extreme measure, having her stomach completely removed.  It's helped her symptoms some, and she's able to eat without a feeding tube.  But Dreckman still tires easy, and wears a port on her chest, which keeps her hydrated.  She may soon have to use an IV to give her nutrition.  One tool that's helped her manage the illness, an online support group.

"We give each other tips like, ‘Try this.  If this doesn't work, try that.'  And there, they're understanding," Dreckman said.

That's why Dreckman wants to continue sharing her struggles, in hopes of helping others with this disease to know they're not alone.  Gastroparesis is common among diabetics, but for many patients, doctors can't pinpoint its cause.

Experts recommend if you have any concerns about stomach pain, or unintentional weight changes, it's best to see a doctor to get it checked out, before the problem becomes more serious.

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