Finally Eating Again, One Woman's Survival Story, Part II

A Texoma woman is now able to eat for the first time in two years.  We first told you about Gayle Salazar and her battle with Gastroparesis Tuesday. We took a closer look at the condition that caused her to constantly feel tired and nausea, robbing her body of any nutrients and slowly killing her.

Now, we're talking with one of the El Paso doctors who oversaw the controversial surgery that Salazar claims saved her life.

But first, we're introducing a self-less Texoman who is part of the organization responsible for getting Salazar to the West Texas treatment facility.

"The generosity of humanity is just amazing," Salazar said.

She thought she had finally found a source of relief from her many months of suffering.  But now, she was faced with a different problem: how to get to El Paso when the thought of leaving her couch was unbearable. The solution, an organization called Grace Flights. 
    
"We donate time and airplane and all costs are covered by the pilot," said Grace Flight pilot H.P. Schuele.

Schuele is one a several pilots in Wichita Falls who are passionate about helping those who don't have access to conventional transportation or, like Salazar, are too sick to drive or fly commercially. 

Although Schuele did not end up flying Salazar's mission, he knows how important their services are.

"Helping patients get the treatment they otherwise could not receive, we like the saying, half the cure is getting there," he said.

"It was a God send, Grace Flights was such a God send," Salazar said.

Once in El Paso, Salazar met her team of doctors who had recently moved from Kansas City.  There,  the medical team had implanted more than 250 gastric neurostimulators, which is a device that tells the brain to digest food.  It's like a pacemaker for digestion.

"It's the size of a regular heart pacemaker and this device is actually placed in a small pocket which is made on the right side of abdominal wall under their skin in connective tissue," said director of neurostimulator research at Texas Tech Internal Medicine Center Irene Sarosiek.

Her surgery in February was the fist done by this team in Texas.  It took several doctors and surgeons hours to complete. Although it is possible to insert the implant laproscopically, Salazar's was an open surgery.

"80% of our patients based in our statistics, they improve symptoms and least 50% and symptoms I am talking about are nausea and vomiting," Sarosiek said.

For Salazar, the surgery was a success. Just days after returning home, she was slowly able to work her way back to eating solid foods. Not only that, but she hasn't been sick since before the procedure.

"Just physically her body doesn't look different but she has life in her we had not seen. It is just amazing," said Dr. Tim McClellan.

Salazar is now alert again and is able to walk and drive on her own.  She says you don't realize all the things you take for granted, including your everyday meals.
 
"I'm going to eat my way up one side of  Kemp Street and down the other.  That is my goal.  I'm never going to use diet again," she said.

Although it's only been a little over a month since her surgery, Salazar is already sharing her experience with others.  She said she doesn't want anyone else to have to go through the agony she went through.

"I'm so happy for Gayle that she has her life and health back. It was a person I had not seen. I'd never met the Gayle Salazar that walked through our office two weeks ago," Dr. McClellan said.

"I haven't figured it out yet, but I know there is a reason I'm still here.  There has got to be," Salazar said.

For more information on Gastroparesis click here.

For more information on gastric neurostimulators click here.

By Lindsey Rogers