Girl’s fight for bionic stomach

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THE family of a 19-year-old girl, who needs a bionic “stomach pacemaker” to stop her being sick 50 times a day, is hoping to secure the rare treatment.

Hannah Westworth, from Morecambe, has been unable to digest food or drink for two years, due to paralysis of her stomach. She is repeatedly sick, and has lost nearly 50 per cent of her body weight – it has plummeted by more than six stones in two years.

Hannah is cared for by her parents, John and Mai Westworth, and countless doctors have tried to find an effective treatment.

The family believes a new treatment, which involves fitting a “pacemaker” to the stomach, could be a lifeline for Hannah, but it can cost in the region of £20,000, and at present it is not clear whether funding will be available from the NHS.

Hannah said: “I’ve been through hell and back, and so have my family, but when I’ve broken down they have been there for me.

“My parents and sister Jenny (22) have been caring for me, and it has been really painful for my family to see me go through this. I have lost my independence, have struggled with my BT job in Lancaster, and have become almost housebound. I have no quality of life and I am constantly weak and exhausted every day. I am missing out on life, and so is my family.”

Hannah’s dad John explained: “Her symptoms began in March 2009 with her condition finally being diagnosed in May 2011 as a severe case of gastreoparesis – paralysis of the stomach – which makes the stomach digest food too slowly or, as in Hannah’s case, not at all.

“Hannah has travelled all over the country to different NHS hospitals looking for answers, with some very unpleasant procedures being done, including scans, gastric emptying test, endoscopies, feeding tubes, botox in the pyloric sphincter, the list goes on – none of which have helped.

“Eventually, we came across a pioneering treatment, which involves a special pacemaker being attached to the stomach. The pacemaker is implanted under the skin, with wires going down into the muscle walls of the stomach.

“Hopefully, when Hannah starts to eat, gastric activity prompts the pacemaker to send a small electrical impulse to the muscles, and the gut contracts, helping the stomach to move the food along the gut.”

If successful, Hannah knows this revolutionary technique could help completely transform her life.

The family is currently waiting to hear if it will be possible to have the operation on the NHS.

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