raven walton big brother

'Big Brother' Viewers Are Shaming Contestant Raven Walton Over Gastroparesis

1k
1k
30

Raven Walton, a 23-year-old dance teacher from Arkansas, has been open about having gastroparesis while she competes on the CBS reality show “Big Brother.” Now, some viewers are taking to the internet to express their doubts on the severity of her illness — something that may sound familiar to others with invisible illnesses.

Walton was diagnosed with gastroparesis when she was 16 and has spoken about the illness and the gastric neurostimulator she uses to treat her symptoms in pre-show interviews and on the show. But since the season began airing on June 28, some viewers (including viewers with gastroparesis themselves) have discussed their skepticism on Twitter, with many using the hashtag #RavenExposedParty. They say she’s exaggerating her illness to get attention and donations to her GoFundMe account, and some have questioned the information she’s given about her condition.

Viewers have also posted on Reddit questioning if she “has a degree of Munchausen’s syndrome” and suggesting she is “used to” having attention from her illness.

It is important to remember that unless you are Walton or her doctor, it is impossible to know the details of her medical history or the effect her chronic illness has on her life. Doubting or shaming people because of their health can prevent others from coming forward and getting the help they need. Trying to diagnose or delegitimize Walton only promotes the stigma those with chronic conditions face.

Walton is currently filming in the “Big Brother” house and can’t respond to any questions, but her mom, Stacy (who also has gastroparesis) has defended her. In a video posted earlier this month, Stacy said complications from severe gastroparesis can indeed be life-threatening and that Raven’s GoFundMe account was started by a fan and turned over to the Walton family.

“For the naysayers who want to rip us apart, I’ll pray for you. Because you don’t walk in my shoes and you don’t know our medical history and everything we’ve battled,” Stacy said. “But I’ll pray for you, because I do know this: in these days and times, people sure are brave behind a keyboard.”

Other viewers and people with gastroparesis have expressed their support for Walton on social media.

1k
1k
30

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To the GI Doctor Who Told Me to Stop Looking for a Diagnosis

9
9
1

Dear doctor,

You probably do remember me. I was that 16-year-old girl who came back even after you told me to stay away and instead look for a psychologist or a psychiatrist. It has been years, but I do remember you vividly. You were a nice man, probably also a good doctor to many. But not to me.

I remember walking into the hospital for the first time – at least as a patient instead of a visitor. I was very hopeful and thought I would finally meet someone who would help or at least want to help me. My symptoms were new to me, and they scared and saddened me to no end. I told myself they would fade away anytime soon, and you were going to be the one to relieve me from them. It is not like I saw doctors as god-like figures, but I surely saw them as one of the most respectable people who are capable of showing great persistence, empathy, intelligence and strength. Unfortunately for me, that was not really the image you presented of yourself.

 

I told you about my symptoms of nausea and loss of appetite and the first thing you thought of mentioning was my weight. I was quite “heavy” for someone who had chronic nausea – at least that is what you thought. My BMI was a bit too high at the time, and I did not look “skinny,” you were right about that. But it does not mean I am exaggerating my symptoms or even lying about them. But I instantly got the vibe that you did not believe a word I said.

I was already quite paranoid about that, as many people thought I was being lazy instead of genuinely feeling sick. But I thought doctors like you would know better. After some random blood tests you told me I was perfectly healthy, at least physically. You told me there was one test left that you would consider if I really wanted it, which was a gastroscopy (upper endoscopy). But after that would show no abnormalities, I would have to stop looking for a diagnosis because there was none. I would have to stop “shopping for doctors,” you told me.

At what point in your education towards becoming a doctor did you lose your empathy? I had the gastroscopy done and my worst fear at that time came true: it showed no abnormalities. When you told me about the results at our last appointment, I accepted my “defeat” and thanked you for your help. You advised me to go to another medical speciality: psychiatry. I smiled and thanked you for advice again. After ending the conversation I hid in nearest restroom and cried for half an hour before walking out, holding my head up high again. I took your advice, and it was one of the worst decisions I have ever made in my life. A decision that will always haunt me, as psychiatry turned out to scar me for life.

Over a year or so after that I managed to become myself again, and decided I was going to visit a new gastroenterologist. This was one of the best decisions I made, as this man was determined to find out what caused my symptoms. After several tests that included blood tests, another gastroscopy, a gastric emptying study and an esophageal manometry, I finally got the news I had wished for: there was a diagnosis.

The tests showed I have gastroparesis as well as esophageal achalasia. That is not good news, some may think. But for me it was the proof that I was never lying or exaggerating. I had even started to doubt myself after the years of disbelief from others. It felt very strange: I knew those illnesses were both chronic, which means I would always feel the symptoms, every day. It meant there was not going to be a cure. And it took me a while to accept that fact. But now that I knew what the cause of my symptoms was, I could finally start moving on.

I told you this because I want to prevent this from happening to anyone else. I would not wish this upon anyone, coming across a doctor that tells you that you are lying or exaggerating. Unfortunately, this happens to many other (invisibly) ill people. And it breaks my heart.

I know you’ll probably regret your decision to send me away when you read this, and I do forgive you for making that decision. You thought you made the right decision at the time. Doctors are only human as well, and humans make mistakes all the time. But don’t let that mistake be in vain: learn from it.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

9
9
1
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

How Perfecting My Appearance Became a Way Of Coping With My Illness

27
27
0

I was not always a perfectionist. As a child I used to be quite carefree and health was never an issue at all. Aside from occasionally contracting influenza during winter times, my health was excellent. Life was fun, as I had practically everything I wanted.

As a teen I continued to live that life. I became a thorn in the side for teachers, as I was not the quiet and well-behaving student at all. At one point I thought to myself, “This can’t go on any further, it’s time to change my ways.” I was around the age of 15. I managed to better myself and worked harder for better results in school. I gained back the trust of my parents and my teachers and I was quite proud of myself for doing so.

Around this time, my health began to act up all of a sudden. I suffered from constant nausea, a loss of appetite, stomach pain and gastroesophageal reflux. This came out of no where and I was desperate to get rid of it or at least find out what caused it. Unfortunately doctors did not believe a word I said and everyone around me thought I went back to my old ways, being lazy and all about taking the easy way out of things.

It saddened and angered me and it also made me into quite the bitter person that I can still be from time to time. Everyone strives to be accepted and to be taken seriously by others to some extent. I knew that I could not expect people of my age to understand, as many of them are as uneducated on chronic health issues as I was myself as well when I was still healthy. But the fact that doctors were not keen to help me frustrated me to no end. It eventually took them more than two years to find out that I suffered from gastroparesis and esophageal achalasia. In those two years my life changed drastically, especially during the time I got involved with psychiatry. Those were not times that I look back on with a smile, to say the least. During that time I learned that I had some things that kept me sort of happy and kept me going: my ability to learn new things, educating others about chronic illness, writing, and something that is a bit more trivial – my looks.

I was never a perfectionist when it came down to my looks. I liked to look good like many other women do, but I did not obsess over it. My looks and the worth I attached to them became both a blessing and a curse. Taking the time to look good and being complimented on it made me feel happy, but it also brought along people who thought I lied about my health issues because I “did not look sick.”

What does a sick person look like exactly, by the way? Pale, skinny? That makes no sense, as some medication can trigger (massive) weight gain. I started to lose weight, but only after a year or so after I started having my symptoms. I am naturally quite pale, but get a lot paler when my health acts up. I also get dark circles under my eyes. You would instantly notice this when I do not wear makeup, but here’s the thing: I do not go out without wearing makeup. And even if I do, I would wear big sunglasses.

I would not post photos to my social media without makeup or without looking good, out of that perfectionism. Not being very healthy is saddening enough, I want to at least look like I am healthy. But the “side effect” of taking all the time and money to look healthy and beautiful is that people will see and treat you like a perfectly healthy person. Which I am not. As much as it hurts me, I have to face that fact.

A professional photo of the writer standing in a white room.

People have accused me of lying about my health. They told me there is no way that I can feel nauseous every day but still manage to put on makeup, wear heels and smile all through the day. They will tell me to eat more in public, even though that is something that I dislike doing and everyone who knows me knows this. People want to take me to restaurants. Restaurants are the places that I used to love going to, but now being there forces me to confront myself with the truth. I am not like other, healthy people.

I enjoy being with people and seeing them enjoy foods. There was a time, years ago, when I was not like that. I am going to be honest, I was very envious and it even angered me to see others enjoy foods that I used to enjoy as well. I am not like that anymore, but I still don’t like eating foods in public. Usually I want to take a rest after eating, so that it does not feel like a rock hit my stomach. I also don’t eat big portions of food, I’d rather have small portions of food all through the day.

So trying to look as good as possible has benefits and down sides. The benefits of it are that people treat you like a “normal” person (in the sense of being healthy) and it also helps me to feel better as well. This might sound strange, but when I look sick I feel worse. I do not know why.

When my symptoms first started I felt a lot worse than I do now, and I am so thankful for being the way I am now. I now know how to deal with my symptoms and I know my limits and the things that I am able to do. It was not like this in the beginning of my illness. I was very lost, anxious, distraught and I had no idea how to cope. My perfectionism became a way of coping with my illness. It became a part of who I am and a part of my coping mechanism. And like many coping mechanisms, it has its benefits and downsides.

Follow this journey on Pascalle Johanna.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

27
27
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

'Big Brother' Contestant Raven Walton Is Showing Viewers the Reality of Gastroparesis

9
9
0

Raven Walton, a 23-year-old with gastroparesis, is competing on “Big Brother” this summer.

Read the full version of  ‘Big Brother’ Contestant Raven Walton Is Showing Viewers the Reality of Gastroparesis.

Read the full transcript:

This ‘Big Brother’ Contestant Is Showing Viewers the Reality of Her Chronic Illness

23-year-old dance teacher Raven Walton is fighting for more than the $500,000 prize on CBS’ “Big Brother.”

She’s raising awareness for gastroparesis and the gastric pacemaker she uses to treat her condition.

Walton was diagnosed at 16 and said it’s possible to see her pacemaker in her stomach.

“Pacer power, ya’ll!” Walton said. “It gave me a second chance at life. And it’s my second heart.”

She’s asking “Big Brother” viewers to use the hashtag #PacerPower when discussing her.

“I know one day eventually I won’t be able to do all these things. So that’s why I’m doing it now.”

Walton’s illness will also influence how she spends the money if she wins.

She told The Hollywood Reporter she isn’t able to have children so the first thing she’d do is freeze her eggs.

“[The show] is bigger than me. It’s my future. I’ve been through a lot with my disease and it’s taken a lot away from me growing up.”

“This is my chance to take some of that back.”

“Big Brother” airs Sundays and Wednesdays at 8/7c and Thursdays at 9/8c on CBS.

9
9
0
TOPICS
Video,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

5 Ways to Accommodate Dietary Restrictions at an Event

18
18
1

As someone who has gastroparesis, a stomach disorder that slows digestion, I have had many unpleasant experiences at food-centric events. Due to my restricted diet, I am often unable to eat the food served. Sometimes this is a minor inconvenience, such as at short events where I know I can eat afterward. Not being able to eat at an event can be troublesome, however, when the event is long (such as at a conference), when the event is your only source of food (such as at retreats) and when outside food is not allowed into the venue. If you are planning an event, you can make your event more friendly to people with dietary restrictions in the following five simple ways:

1. If possible, tell your guests about the menu ahead of time.

If the event you are planning is invite-only, or if it is publicized, tell guests about the menu ahead of time. Doing so will allow your guests to know if they need to eat before the event or bring their own food. Even if the menu items cannot be altered, allowing your guests to know in advance about what will be served will allow them to plan ahead properly.

 

2. At buffet-style events, label dishes and provide their allergen information.

Buffet-style events can be especially difficult to attend for people with dietary restrictions because of the uncertainty about how the food is prepared and about the ingredients used. Labeling the food, including the ingredients list, and providing the allergen information can help greatly in making your event accessible for people with dietary restrictions. Labeling the dishes ahead of time also helps the event run smoothly by allowing guests to determine for themselves if they can eat a dish, as opposed to the guest needing to ask the host about ingredients.

3. If the event requires an RSVP, include a space where guests can specify their dietary restrictions.

If your event has a guest list and requires an RSVP, you can make your event more accessible for people with dietary restrictions by allowing people to list their restrictions on the RSVP form. Many catered events with multiple entree options already include a space for guests to specify which entree they would like. Including space for guests to list their restrictions gives them an unobtrusive way to make their needs known. In some cases, dietary restrictions can be accommodated easily by preparing a guest’s meal without certain components, such as by leaving a cream-based sauce off of the plate of someone with a milk allergy or intolerance. Allowing people to list their restrictions in advance also allows the event planner to accommodate the specific diets of their guests, rather than having to guess which diets to accommodate. This can allow the event planner to avoid accommodating diets that their guests do not have, such as by going out of their way to provide a gluten-free option when none of the guests follow gluten-free diets.

4. If not all diets can be accommodated, allow people to decline the food ahead of time.

There are many medical conditions that cause people to have to follow special diets, from common conditions like irritable bowel syndrome to lesser-known ones like eosinophilic esophagitis. It may not be feasible for all diets to be accommodated. While it can feel isolating to be the only person not served food at an event, it feels even worse to have to leave the food you were served untouched and wasted. Allowing people who cannot eat the provided food to decline it in advance reduces food waste. It also saves money by preventing unneeded meals from being purchased and prepared.

5. Allow people with medical conditions to bring their own food and drink into the venue.

Many people with medical conditions carry wallet-sized cards with them that explain their condition and the reasons for why they may need to bring food or drink into a venue. Even if the venue does not usually allow people to enter with outside food or drink, please make exceptions for people with medical needs. This can be important for a variety of situations. Some disorders, like gastroparesis, can limit the amount of food a person is able to eat at any one time. People with gastroparesis are encouraged to eat small portions throughout the day. It may not be possible for someone with a medical condition like gastroparesis to eat enough before an event to keep them full until the end. People with dietary restrictions who have co-morbid diabetes may need to bring food into a venue to prevent their blood sugar from dropping.

Through these five methods, you can make your events easier to attend for people with dietary restrictions. Informing guests about the menu ahead of time will allow them to plan ahead for the event more effectively. Labeling dishes at buffet-style events will allow guests to determine which dishes they can eat. Event planners will benefit from eliminating the need to guess which restrictions their guests have at events that require an RSVP by allowing their guests to list their restrictions on the RSVP form. Allowing guests to decline food they cannot eat before the event will prevent food waste. Ensuring that guests on medical diets can bring their own food into the venue will allow them to manage their conditions more effectively.

This post originally appeared on Spoonie Musings.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via TeerawatWinyarat.

18
18
1
TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What to Expect During an Esophageal Manometry

4
4
0

As a person with chronic gastrointestinal problems, I have undergone many probing and scoping procedures. Before undergoing my first esophageal manometry, a procedure in which a pressure-sensing probe is inserted through the nose and down the esophagus, I remember that I wished there had been more firsthand accounts I could read about what to expect from the procedure. This piece will be the first in a series of pieces which will delve into what it is like to undergo different medical procedures I have personally had to get done. Through this series, I aim to help demystify certain medical procedures for other patients who have to experience them.

 

I chose the esophageal manometry to be the first procedure that I detail because I remember it as being a particularly difficult procedure for me and because of the nervousness I felt before getting my first one done. It is important to note that every hospital is different, and my experience with the procedure may not match up exactly with the experiences of everyone who has had it done. Here’s what to expect when undergoing an esophageal manometry, based on my own personal experience:

1. The technician will choose which nostril to insert the probe into and may give you a numbing spray.

Before the probe is inserted, the technician will likely ask you if you have any conditions (such as a deviated septum) that may influence the ability of the probe to be inserted. The technician will choose which nostril the probe will be inserted into. A numbing spray may be injected up the nostril before the probe is inserted, depending on the hospital you get the procedure done at. During an esophageal manometry, it is also typical for a patient to wear their own clothes as opposed to being given a hospital gown. Before the probe is inserted, the technician may give you a towel to put over your clothes to prevent them from getting messy during the procedure.

2. The probe will be inserted into the nostril and guided to the top of the throat. The probe will then be guided down the throat and into the esophagus. During this step you will likely have to help by swallowing water.

This step was by far the most uncomfortable for me personally. Having the probe guided to the top of the throat was fairly easy for me to tolerate. The trouble comes when the probe is inserted down the throat and into the esophagus. Because the probe comes in contact with the back of the throat, it is common for the patient’s gag reflex to be triggered. This was the case for me personally, and I found it difficult not to throw up. It is also necessary to swallow the probe during this step to ensure that it goes down the esophagus and not the windpipe. When I had the procedure done, I was given a cup of water to drink to ensure that I swallowed. The good news, however, is that once the probe is fully inserted and stops moving, it is easier to tolerate. Once the probe is in place, it is in and does not need to be adjusted for the rest of the procedure.

3. After the probe is fully inserted, it will be taped into place on your cheek and/or nose and then calibrated. You will also likely be asked to lie down on your back.

Once the probe is in place, the technician will likely tape it to your face to prevent it from moving. Before actual data-collecting trials could be completed, I was asked not to swallow for a specified amount of time to allow the probe to be calibrated. This step can be harder to complete than it sounds because the feeling of the probe against the back of your throat can make you reflexively want to swallow or gag. I personally found that it helped to hold my breath during this step to prevent myself from swallowing. Do whatever works for you. After the probe is calibrated, you will likely be asked to lie down. This is also harder to do than it sounds because it can be uncomfortable to lie horizontally with the probe in place.

4. During the data-collection stage, you will be instructed to complete about 10 swallowing trials. You will usually be required to swallow liquid for these trials, though in some cases foods like applesauce may be used.

During the data-collection trials, the technician will measure out a portion of liquid (usually water) and feed it to you using a syringe. You will be told when to swallow. After swallowing the liquid sample, you will be instructed not to swallow for a specified amount of time so that the trial can run to completion. During the first time I had this procedure done, I was only given water during these swallowing trials. When I underwent the procedure again at a different hospital, I was also given applesauce and a sports drink during some of the trials. Each hospital that administers the procedure has its own methods, so some differences in experience can occur.

5. When all of the trials are completed, the technician will pull the probe out.

Once all of the trials are completed, the end is finally in sight, and the probe will need to be removed. During the two times I had this procedure completed, the technician pulled out the probe quickly using one continuous motion. This step was much easier for me to tolerate than the insertion step was.

While an esophageal manometry can be a difficult procedure to tolerate, it can be important to complete if your doctor has concerns about the muscular functioning of your esophagus. This procedure can be used to diagnose motility disorders like achalasia and esophageal hypomotility. It is also commonly performed before a patient is administered the 24-hour pH probing test used to diagnose acid reflux or GERD. If you are scheduled to get the 24-hour pH probing procedure done after the manometry, you can take comfort in knowing that I found probe used for the pH test to be much thinner and easier to tolerate. Best of luck if you need to get this procedure done soon.

This post originally appeared on Spoonie Musings.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia.

4
4
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.