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Ford City woman keeps upbeat outlook despite digestive disorder

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Debra “Debbie” Beer, 53, of Ford City, holds a proclamation by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announcing that March 2013 is Gastroparesis Awareness Month. Beer, who suffers from the medical condition, is an advocate for gastroparesis awareness.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

FORD CITY – Debbie Beer of Ford City is turning her suffering into something good.

Beer, 53, has lived most of her life with painful symptoms that she said were misdiagnosed until 1992.

That's when she found out she had gastroparesis, a digestive disorder which slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine.

She said she was underweight and malnourished for years. At age 3, she weighed just 16 pounds.

Although the condition is a common complication for people with diabetes – Beer is diabetic – she said the exact cause is unknown.

“Because of all the testing and being sick all the time, I lost my job and my health insurance,” Beer said.

That was more than 20 years ago. She also lost her most recent job in 2006 because of similar issues, but declined naming the organization.

Now she is fitted with a device which sends electronic signals to her stomach to help empty it. She said she first read about the gastric pacemaker in 2008 but had to delay surgery for a year while she battled with her health insurance for coverage.

And now, even with the device, she still has to deal with pain and frequent nausea.

She said it's easy to get depressed so she makes an effort to stay upbeat and help others.

“It's your attitude,” said Beer. “If you get depressed and get down, I truly think it makes things worse.”

She devotes much of her time volunteering with the parent/teacher organization at Lenape Elementary School in Manor Township and has become an advocate for gastroparesis awareness.

She sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett, outlining her experience living with the disease and wrote of her desire to promote awareness with a goal toward increased research.

Last week she received a mailed response from the governor's office which included words of support and encouragement for those suffering from the disorder. The letter also included a proclamation:

“As Governor, and on behalf of all Pennsylvanians, I am pleased to recognize March 2013 as Gastroparesis Awareness Month,” said Corbett.

Beer, who belongs to the Gastroparesis Awareness Campaign Organization, was delighted when she received the letter and plans to organize an awareness walk in October.

“God has blessed me,” she said. “I may be sick, but I can still smile and I'm not about to give up any time soon.”

For more information, call Debbie at 724-525-1247 or visit www.gpawarenessfund.com.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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