Pacemaker May Allow Teen With Paralyzed Stomach to Eat Again

Kathy and Lowell Hansen were initially unsure of how they would pick up the estimated $300,000 cost of their daughter's surgery. She is an executive with a speed-reading company and he runs an electrical company.

But, now, Select Health spokesman Spencer Sutherland said, "We are happy to cover it and hope it works."

Gastroparesis: Vomiting Up Every Meal

Gentrie's ordeal began in December 2009 when she began vomiting up every meal she ate. Her diagnosis was delayed for five months because of the anorexic or bulimic suspicions.

One test, that put food in the stomach, bypassing the mouth, cost $40,000.

"The community has really rallied behind the family," said Doug Robinson, a neighbor of the Hansen's who wrote a column for the Deseret News that helped raise awareness for her plight.

He described Gentrie as "girlhood personified."

"Happy. Friendly. Active. Pretty. Personable," he wrote. "When we pulled into the driveway or walked to the mailbox, she liked to shout out a greeting and conduct interviews across the street: How are you guys? What are you doing? Where are you going? This was between cartwheels in the grass."

When he family had to raise $100,000 to pay upfront for the pacemaker and had no commitment from the insurance company, they turned to the community for help.

One fundraiser alone raised $18,000, according to Robinson. A local Burger King donated half a day's proceeds to the family, as did a couple of car washes.

Gentrie hasn't attended school since December and because she is constantly nauseated, home schooling with a tutor doesn't work out.

"Sometimes, I want to be done with it," she told Robinson. "I just want to say, 'I give up.'?"

At one point she told her parents, "I just want to go live with Grandpa [who died]. It's too hard here. I can't go to school. I can't be with friends. I don't really have a life."

But the hardest part is being around food and not being able to eat, especially with three hungry brothers and an older sister. The boys -- one a 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive lineman for Brigham Young University -- had a "code word" for when they wanted to eat, according to Robinson.

"They'd say let's go play ping pong, and she would know they were going to eat and cry," he said.

The entire family went on a trip in March to California and tried to shield Gentrie from the food that is "such a part of life," aunt Cutrer said.

"Some of us would sit down to eat and the rest of us would take Gentrie walking," she said. "At family get-togethers and barbecues, we take her out back where she doesn't have to come in the kitchen with the food and smells."

Gentrie has met several other girls online who have the same condition and they consult each other for comfort.

Meanwhile, her family is thrilled with the good care Gentrie has received at Nationwide, Cutrer said.

Gentrie was hoping to be on solid food straight away, but is still on liquids, or the sugarless gum she has been allowed to chew for the past seven months.

"Earlier in the week, Gentrie had it in her mind that by Wednesday she would be eating, but when surgery got [rescheduled], she was devastated," Cutrer said. "We all laugh that she is going to get hospital food. She was making a wish that she would go on an eating tour of the United States."

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