Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

September 10, 2013

Awareness event Oct. 21

Donations will aid Waggoner, longtime gastroparesis patient

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — A local family is working to raise awareness about a little-known disease called gastroparesis.

The Gastroparesis Awareness Walk will take place at 1 p.m. Oct. 21 in Central Park. Participants are asked to meet on the 17th Street side of the park near Crabbe Elementary.

Donations to benefit gastroparesis patient Marnie Waggoner will be accepted. Waggoner, 39, a 1991 graduate of Boyd County High School, was diagnosed with the disorder in 2011, after suffering from it for more than a decade. The family is struggling to cover the cost of her treatments, which are not covered by insurance.

Haleigh Waggoner said the walk is aimed at acknowledging those who have the disorder and offering support. She also hopes it will educate the medical community about the little-known disorder to build support for new treatments and a cure.

Gastroparesis slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. According to the National Institute of Health, the disease occurs when the vagus nerve is damaged by illness or injury and the stomach muscles stop working normally. This causes food to move slowly from the stomach to the small intestine or stop moving altogether.

Most with the disorder, including Marnie Waggoner, have been diagnosed with idiopathic gastroparesis, meaning the cause cannot be identified. The most common known cause is diabetes, according to the NIH. This is because over time high levels of blood glucose can damage the vagus nerve.

Common symptoms of gastroparesis are nausea, a feeling of fullness after eating only a small amount and vomiting undigested food. Other symptoms include acid reflux, pain in the stomach area, adnominal bloating and a lack of appetite.

The disease can be especially tricky to diagnose because patients can sometimes exhibit a range of symptoms similar to those of other diseases, according to the NIH. That was the experience Marnie Waggoner had, bouncing from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital looking for answers.

Once gastroparesis is identified, finding a treatment can be just as tricky. According to the Gastroparesis Awareness Fund, there is no cure nor a specific treatment drug for the disorder.

Doctors typically prescribe a range of treatments to address symptoms and not the underlying disease, according to the fund’s website. These include diet changes, a range of medications, injections of botulinum toxin, gastric electrical stimulation and surgical placement of a feeding tube to bypass the stomach.

Marnie Waggoner received a feeding tube and gets regular injections of medication.

“What we’re trying to do is get doctors and the world to open their eyes and study more about gastroparesis. It is out there and it is bad,” said Haleigh Waggoner, 22.

“We just want people to acknowledge it and pay attention,” she said. Her biggest hope is to spare others the agony they endured during the 11 years it took to diagnose her mother, despite visiting a number of local medical facilities.

“It doesn’t only hurt the person who has it, it hurts the whole family,” Haleigh Waggoner said. “It’s a horrible disease.” 

The Ashland walk will coincide with events planned across the country, which are in their fourth year.

For more information, call Haleigh Waggoner at (606) 465-8617 or email  charleigh.dae012012@gmail.com.

The Gastroparesis Awareness Walk will take place at 1 p.m. Oct. 21 in Central Park. Participants are asked to meet on the 17th Street side of the park near Crabbe Elementary.

Donations to benefit gastroparesis patient Marnie Waggoner will be accepted. Waggoner, 39, a 1991 graduate of Boyd County High School, was diagnosed with the disorder in 2011, after suffering from it for more than a decade. The family is struggling to cover the cost of her treatments, which are not covered by insurance.

Haleigh Waggoner said the walk is aimed at acknowledging those who have the disorder and offering support. She also hopes it will educate the medical community about the little-known disorder to build support for new treatments and a cure.

Gastroparesis slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. According to the National Institute of Health, the disease occurs when the vagus nerve is damaged by illness or injury and the stomach muscles stop working normally. This causes food to move slowly from the stomach to the small intestine or stop moving altogether.

Most with the disorder, including Marnie Waggoner, have been diagnosed with idiopathic gastroparesis, meaning the cause cannot be identified. The most common known cause is diabetes, according to the NIH. This is because over time high levels of blood glucose can damage the vagus nerve.

Common symptoms of gastroparesis are nausea, a feeling of fullness after eating only a small amount and vomiting undigested food. Other symptoms include acid reflux, pain in the stomach area, adnominal bloating and a lack of appetite.

The disease can be especially tricky to diagnose because patients can sometimes exhibit a range of symptoms similar to those of other diseases, according to the NIH. That was the experience Marnie Waggoner had, bouncing from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital looking for answers.

Once gastroparesis is identified, finding a treatment can be just as tricky. According to the Gastroparesis Awareness Fund, there is no cure nor a specific treatment drug for the disorder.

Doctors typically prescribe a range of treatments to address symptoms and not the underlying disease, according to the fund’s website. These include diet changes, a range of medications, injections of botulinum toxin, gastric electrical stimulation and surgical placement of a feeding tube to bypass the stomach.

Marnie Waggoner received a feeding tube and gets regular injections of medication.

“What we’re trying to do is get doctors and the world to open their eyes and study more about gastroparesis. It is out there and it is bad,” said Haleigh Waggoner, 22.

“We just want people to acknowledge it and pay attention,” she said. Her biggest hope is to spare others the agony they endured during the 11 years it took to diagnose her mother, despite visiting a number of local medical facilities.

“It doesn’t only hurt the person who has it, it hurts the whole family,” Haleigh Waggoner said. “It’s a horrible disease.” 

The Ashland walk will coincide with events planned across the country, which are in their fourth year.

For more information, call Haleigh Waggoner at (606) 465-8617 or email  charleigh.dae012012@gmail.com.