This story recounts the experience of one person who is receiving Enterra™ Therapy (gastric electrical stimulation). Medtronic invited her to share her story candidly. Please bear in mind that the experiences are specific to this particular person. Not everyone who receives Enterra Therapy will receive the same results as the person in this story.
Leita, a student studying for her PhD in cellular and molecular biology, woke up one day with an earache and nausea. She started her busy day working at the lab, but soon her symptoms worsened to include an increased heart rate, shaking in her arms, and sensitivity to light. Within 3 days she experienced vertigo and nausea, and couldn’t keep down food or drink.
Her doctors explained that bulimia, an ear infection, or meningitis might be causes, though none seemed to fit. Leita was especially troubled that they suspected an eating disorder, given her love of cooking and southern cuisine.
A series of tests eventually revealed that Leita had gastroparesis* of idiopathic origin, a condition characterized by chronic nausea and vomiting.
Leita’s health issues changed her life drastically. While she continued to cook for her family, she could not eat her favorite foods and she avoided restaurants.
“When you love food so much and it becomes your enemy, it’s heart breaking. Cooking and eating used to bring me so much joy, and now I associated it with something awful.”
Frequent hospital stays became a way of life for Leita, as she needed feeding tubes and intravenous lines to receive nutrition.
Doctors prescribed a variety of medications to manage her condition, as well as nontraditional remedies including vertigo patches, metal-ion bracelets, acupuncture, and eating fresh ginger. “I tried everything,” Leita says, “and nothing worked.”
When her doctor suggested she receive gastric electrical stimulation, Leita was initially cautious. “Even though I was getting more desperate, I had been burned enough along the way with bad ideas.” Her faith in her doctor persuaded her to have the surgery to implant the Enterra Therapy system. “After being nauseated all the time,” she says, “putting in a neurostimulator was a small thing for me to go through.”
Just a few days after surgery, Leita was eating strawberry ice cream.
“I can’t wait to eat my way across New Orleans one day,” she says.
While the effectiveness of gastric electrical stimulation has not been clinically proven, and results differ for each patient, it has helped Leita.
Since she began receiving Enterra Therapy, drinking water has been a particular source of pleasure for Leita. Water used to unsettle her stomach, but now she’s back to “chugging” it, as she did before she had gastroparesis.
Leita has also resumed her studies, and is in the planning stages of launching a health foundation for gastroparesis research, awareness, and fundraising.
“My love is science, and gastroparesis has been my life, so I really feel like I should do something with the two together.”
Leita didn’t experience any complications with her surgery. However, some people do experience surgical complications or side effects of the therapy.
Surgical complications are possible and may include infection, bleeding, bruising, and pain at the implant site. Once implanted, the system may become infected, devices may move or wear through the skin, the lead may perforate the stomach, the lead may entangle with or obstruct the bowel, irritation/inflammation over implant site may occur. The therapy system could stop suddenly because of mechanical or electrical problems. Any of these situations may require additional surgery or cause your symptoms to return and some can be life-threatening.
For a list of adverse events that have been associated with the therapy, please refer to Important Safety Information.
*Humanitarian Device: The Enterra Therapy system for gastric electrical stimulation is authorized by Federal law for use in treatment of chronic intractable (drug refractory) nausea and vomiting secondary to gastroparesis of diabetic or idiopathic etiology. The effectiveness of this device for this use has not been demonstrated. What does this mean?
This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.