There’s an end in sight to the decade of suffering endured by Rose Schwarz. The Sechelt woman has a stomach removal surgery scheduled for April 24, and just one more fundraiser to make the trip possible.
Schwarz suffers from a severe form of a rare disease called gastroparesis, which essentially paralyzes her stomach, making her unable to digest food. That means that whatever the 24-year-old eats will make an appearance again completely undigested at some point in time, without warning.
The disease, which has worsened over time and went undiagnosed for many years, has made it impossible for Schwarz to eat, and her weight has plummeted to, at times, a little more than 70 pounds.
Currently Schwarz weighs about 95 pounds and she sustains herself through a feeding tube that bypasses her stomach, but the unanticipated vomiting still plagues her, as stomach acid builds up throughout the day.
“On a good day, I’d say I probably throw up maybe five or six times stomach acid, and on a bad day maybe 20 times or something, and it’s always so varied,” Schwarz said. “But during the day I just do what I can depending upon how nauseous I am that day.”
The disease has caused painful side effects, and recently Schwarz had to have all her teeth removed because of their erosion from the daily vomiting.
She said it has been hard to live with the disease that many incorrectly assume is either anorexia or bulimia.
Over the past 10 years, Schwarz has tried many different kinds of therapies and visited upwards of 50 different doctors to seek out a solution.
The last time Coast Repor-ter interviewed Schwarz was December 2009. At that time her mother Tani Schwarz and stepfather Gary Gilbert were putting on a fundraiser to cover travel costs to have an abdominal pacemaker adjusted in the hope it would stimulate her stomach to function properly.
After several trips out of province to tweak the device, it was found to be unresponsive. Eventually, it was removed.
Now Schwarz feels her only chance at a normal life is a complete removal of her stomach, a procedure called gastroectomy, where the esophagus is attached directly to the small intestine. After recovery, patients are often able to eat several small healthy snacks throughout the day.
The surgery is known by some medical professionals in B.C. and a few have performed it on cancer patients, but no one was willing to try on Schwarz.
“They were worried that if they get her cut open and she’s on the table and there’s something that they don’t understand or they’re not used to seeing, then they’d rather have someone who had experience with it to be in charge,” Gilbert said. “So when you have one high-powered surgeon who says no, often times the next one will say no, and it’s a chain reaction.”
After searching across Canada, the family finally found a surgeon in Calgary with experience and willingness to do the surgery.
Now they’re ready to go, but need to raise travel costs once again, as well as money for food, lost wages, and accommodation while in Alberta. There will also likely be follow-up visits back to Calgary and Schwarz will need some help being reintroduced to food again.
To raise funds, A Night of Outstanding Acoustic Music is planned for next Saturday, March 24, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. at the Roberts Creek Hall. For a $20 ticket, attendees will hear Joel Fafard, winner of the Canadian Folk award, Western Canadian Music award and Juno nominee, as well as recording artists Steve Hinton, Joe Stanton, Dr. Fun, Gaetan Bergevin and Bits of String.
There will also be a silent auction and beer, wine and food available at this adults-only event. Tickets are available only in advance at Gaia’s Fair Trade in Gibsons, MELOmania in Roberts Creek and Strait Music in Sechelt.
Schwarz and her parents have been overwhelmed by the generous response of the community to their requests for help with this event, from the musicians who are donating their time to those who generously gave for the silent auction.
“I’ve felt guilty asking for help, but everyone is so happy to help, so excited to help. It means a lot,” Schwarz said.
If you are unable to come to the March 24 event, but would like to donate, you can give to The Rose Fund, which is set up at the Sunshine Coast Credit Union or give via PayPal to Tanischwarz@gmail.com.