WATCH ABOVE: Jessica Turner, a 38-year-old mother of two from Ajax, suffers from the rare conditions of Gastroparesis and Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction. The diseases prevent her from digesting food and the prognosis is not good. Lama Nicolas has the story.
TORONTO — It’s been six years since Jessica Turner has been able to eat food.
The 38-year-old mother of two from Ajax, Ont. has a rare condition, including suffering from Gastroparesis, which basically means her stomach is paralyzed.
She’s also been diagnosed with Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction, which means her small and large intestines are also inactive.
“I never knew how important food was until it was gone,” she says.
Turner can’t digest any food due to the condition and it instead sits in her stomach.
Turner survives on getting nutrients through what’s called a Total Parenteral Nutrition, a device that drips it into her blood throughout the day.
“I’ll put the food in my mouth, to get the taste”, she says. “But then right before one would normally swallow, I discard it in a bag.”
The former nurse says her struggle began eight years ago.
“I remember I was working night shifts, I got an eye infection but didn’t think too much of it.”
From there her condition worsened — leading to dizziness, weakness, fever and pain. Afterwards, she couldn’t keep food down and her stomach would swell.
“Within about three days I looked like I was about seven to eight months pregnant,” she says.
“We felt for years we were talking and no one was listening.”
Jessica’s husband Steve said the couple tried whatever they could to try to help her, with no luck.
“We could come in and say can we try this or try that,” he says.
“Something we read on the Internet and they would say, ‘Well, there’s no test to show that.'”
After constant visits to the hospital and doctors appointments, she was eventually diagnosed two years later. Doctors told her a viral infection had attacked her brain stem and shut down her digestive system.
The prognosis is not very good and Turner is now being treated with palliative care.
She feels let down by the health care system and even heard those same words from one of her doctors.
“She said, ‘The medical system failed you and I failed you,'” Turner says.
Family and friends are rallying to help with medical expenses by starting an online fundraising campaign to help ease some of the financial burden.
Turner was up for a transplant to replace her stomach, small and large intestines and pancreas, but she was told complications could include cancer and she might not survive the surgery.
She chose to opt out and now she doesn’t know how long she has.
Turner is sharing her story hoping others would continue to search for answers even when it might seem bleak.
“I don’t want people to feel as lost as I was,” she says.
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