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Saving Rose: fundraising efforts to help former resident

Rose Schwartz; Photo, submitted

Long time Grand Forks resident Gary Gilbert and his partner Tani Schwartz are reaching out for help. Help to save Tani’s daughter Rose in her continuing struggle with a little known condition called gastroparesis.

Some of you may remember her story, for others this may the first time you have heard about Rose. A year-and-a-half ago, Gary and Tani moved to the Sunshine Coast from Grand Forks in order to help Rose access needed medical care. Gilbert had lived in the community for over 35 years and is well-known as a school bus driver and musician. Last January, Gilbert came back to Grand Forks to play with his band Dr. Fun and the Nightcrawlers to host a fundraiser to help Rose have an unusual surgery only available in Montreal. The operation was to implant a gastric electrical stimulator (GES) in her stomach. You see, Rose’s stomach no longer processes food.

Prior to their move to the coast, Rose’s condition had been worsening. Down to 72 pounds on a five-foot-six frame, Rose was a ghost of the active, 18-year-old girl she had been. Gastroparesis happens when nerves to the stomach are damaged or stop working. The vagus nerve controls the movement of food through the digestive tract. If the vagus nerve is damaged, the muscles of the stomach and intestines do not work normally, and the movement of food is slowed or stopped. For Rose the movement has stopped.

Funds raised here, in their old home town, and in Sechelt, allowed Rose to undergo two operations – one to insert the GES, and another to insert a feeding tube which by-passes her stomach and allows nutrients to enter directly into her organs. Since the surgery in February 2009 she has only gained 24 pounds but is holding steady at 96 lbs.

“She (Rose) tube feeds 13 hours a day,” says Gilbert. “So far she has had no response from the GES unit she had implanted even though we have flown to Calgary three times to have it adjusted. It is very new technology here in Canada.”

Gilbert says that the family has made contact with the doctor who invented the unit and has 15 years expertise in adjusting it. He’s located in Mississippi and has offered to move Rose nearly to the top of his waiting list if they can get down to meet with him.

“This is the recommendation of our doctors here, and of the Gastroparesis Foundation in Calgary,” says Gilbert. “It is our hope that this doctor can get the GES working so Rose won’t have to tube feed and can get on with her life, her dreams and her goals.”

Gilbert estimates that the medical and travel expenses combined will be $15,000 U.S. In order to start the drive to raise the money, Gilbert was honoured that the award winning recording artist Harry Manx offered to do a show for their benefit. Manx blends Indian folk melodies with slide guitar blues that envelope the audience into what has been dubbed the “Harry zone.”

The concert will be held at the Roberts Creek Hall on Saturday, Dec. 19. Tickets are limited and are available at several locations: Wing Song Gallery in Sechelt, MELOmania Music in Roberts Creek, and Gaia’s Fair Trade in Gibsons. Doors are at 8:00 p.m.

Locally, the Rose fund at the Grand Forks District Credit Union is still open for people to contribute to as well if you can’t make the show.

What a true Christmas gift it would be if Gary, Tani, and Rose could face 2010 with the knowledge that they could do everything possible to change Rose’s life.