Living without food local news thepostnewspapers.com 8 gases

But tonight, just like it was Thanksgiving day, Meier’s plate will be set at his dining room table. However, it will remain empty the same way it has for the past 17 months. The last time a morsel passed Meier’s lips was June 5, 2012 – a day he doesn’t want to remember, but one he’s pretty certain he will never be able to forget.

Just days before that, Meier was struck by the sudden onset of severe stomach pain and bloating that eventually became so severe that he asked his wife, Barb, to take him to the Cleveland Clinic. The pain, he said, was familiar, as approximately18 months prior, he’d been admitted to the hospital with the same symptoms. That time, physicians attributed the pain to an intestinal blockage. After a few days of treatment, the symptoms dissipated and Meier was released.

Meier was hospitalized for a few days when he underwent exploratory surgery to determine the cause of the blockage. When they opened him up, doctors suspected to find a large amount of Crohn’s disease in his intestines, which can contribute to the kind of obstructions, painful stomach cramping and nausea Meier had been experiencing. But after examining the small intestine, there was no evidence of the disease.

Meier’s physician told him after the surgery that he would probably return home in a matter of days. But nearly two weeks after having been admitted, he was still in extreme pain and couldn’t eat, much less drink, without getting another obstruction.

That’s when doctors realized that Meier’s condition was much more serious than they had anticipated and the likelihood of it resolving itself was minimal. His diagnosis – Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction (CIPO) – a rare gastrointestinal motility disorder characterized by recurring episodes resembling mechanical bowel obstruction in the absence of organic, systemic, or metabolic disorders.

Though he was back home in a matter of days, life would never be the same again. There would be no more dinner dates, no more business luncheons, no more midnight snacks. Instead, his meals from now on would come in the form of total parenteral nutrition, which is administered through a peripherally inserted central catheter, otherwise known as a PICC line, for 12 hours a day.

Doctors also had to place a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube in his stomach to vent all of the gas, stomach acids and other fluids that would no longer travel through his small intestines. The tube, Meier said, hangs out of his stomach at all times, constantly draining his stomach contents into a bag.

“The only reason I’m allowed to drink is to keep my mouth moist. It’s pretty superficial,” Meier said, noting that once he consumes the liquid, it goes directly from his stomach into the tube. “You can watch it come out almost instantaneously.”

Since he can no longer eat, Meier said he thinks about food more than ever. Instead of just the taste, though, he’s been forced to contemplate the role food plays in society and how the lack of food now isolates him from normal communication.

“For over 30 years of my adult life, I scheduled multiple breakfast and lunch appointments with businessmen from town, new folks at church, colleagues and friends,” he said. “Since I can no longer eat I haven’t been hanging out in restaurants a whole lot. I haven’t attended men’s breakfasts or participated in fundraising banquets and haven’t gone to a lot of parties where everything is all about the food. I actually would be able to handle it, but I’ve discovered that it makes everyone else uncomfortable. I can watch them wolf down a meal and act like a veritable pig but they can’t stand watching me just sitting there.”

Though he misses preaching immensely, Meier said the overall fatigue that comes from not getting all the vitamins, nutrients and essential elements from food has rendered him exhausted most days. If the lack of energy isn’t hard enough to deal with, the esophageal spasms he experiences frequently are painful enough that they take his breath away.

Throughout his ordeal, Meier has kept a journal which allowed him an outlet to express his innermost thoughts, hopes and fears. Along the way, that journal transitioned into a full-blown book, which has since been published and released to readers.

In its first week, the initial 1,000 copies of “Taste: My New Life Without Food” nearly sold out. Not only did several patients with similar medical issues place an order, but dozens were shipped to friends, family and members of Meier’s congregation who longed to know more about his rare condition and have one more taste of their beloved pastor’s words of wisdom.

“I may not be physically hungry because I do receive nutrition in a different way,” he said. “But I am brain hungry. I have all these foods I’ve loved over the years that I can no longer have. And the hardest part of it all has been accepting that this is my new normal.”

Copies of Meier’s book are available in the office of Hope Church, 1869 Pearl Road in Brunswick, or on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/tastegordonmeier. Though there is no charge for the book, donations assist with printing expenses are being accepted.