Teen undergoing surgery to be able to eat for first time in 6 months

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DRAPER -- Imagine sitting in front of a delicious Fourth of July barbecue meal this weekend, but not being able to take a single bite.

Gentrie Hansen faces that dilemma every single day. In fact, the 14-year-old hasn't swallowed a bite of food since last December.

Walk into the kitchen of Lowell and Kathy Hansen's Draper home and you'll realize something is missing -- food. In fact, there's a sign that declares their kitchen is closed.

"Considering my boys, and we have a family of eaters, you find almost all that you do revolves around food," Kathy said.

One of those boys is Braden, the 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive lineman for BYU.

What is... gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the ability of the stomach to empty its contents, but there is no blockage (obstruction). The cause is unknown, but it may be caused by a disruption of nerve signals to the intestine. The condition is a common complication of diabetes and can be a complication of some surgeries.

  • Abdominal distention
  • Nausea
  • Premature abdominal fullness after meals
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Vomiting

"You either go downstairs and sneak the food in the back or we go out to eat," Braden said. "We just don't have it here cause it's really hard on her."

Gentrie Hansen is Braden's youngest sibling. Food is her biggest enemy.

In December of 2009, she began vomiting everything she ate.

"They tested me for brain tumors and everything under the sun," she said.

Doctors even thought Gentrie may be anorexic or bulimic, but finally, there came an official diagnosis.

"Gentrie was diagnosed with gastroparesis. It means a paralyzed stomach," said pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Janet Harnsberger. "Her case is death-defying. She literally cannot tolerate any feeds that go into her stomach."

So to save Gentrie from the smell of food, the Hansen's kitchen is off limits.

"In the beginning [it was] really hard, and it's still really hard," Gentrie said. "But now we've started to chew and spit."

To keep her alive, Gentrie is fed nutrients through a PICC line that goes directly to her heart. She's hasn't swallowed food or water in over six months and has lost nearly 30 pounds.

The former dancer and cheerleader suffers constant stomach pain and vomits several times a day.

But on July 5, Gentrie and her mother will travel to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio for surgery. Doctors will implant a pacemaker in her abdomen, hoping to shock the stomach back into action.

"Because of Gentrie's general wellness, except for her stomach, I'm very optimistic this will work for her," Dr. Harnsberger said.

"Dr. Tykes says he's had 100 percent success with the ones he's put in himself, and so we're extremely hopeful," Kathy Hansen said.

Doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital should know within a few weeks if the surgery was successful. Hopeful Gentrie can get back to school, get back her social life, but most importantly, get back to the dinner table.

So what will Gentrie ask to eat first after her surgery?

"Not the hospital food, that's for sure," she said.

E-mail: kaiken@ksl.com


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