In one moment, someone's life will be forever changed by a digestive motility disorder. 
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Association of Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders, Inc. (AGMD)
Monthly Online Newsletter
 January 2018
In This Issue
Quick Links
* Announcements
* Digestive Motility Myths and Facts - AGMD
* Financial Challenges - AGMD
* Some Helpful  Financial Resources - Melissa      Adams VanHouten & AGMD
* Saying Goodbye To A Career - Maryangela        DeGrazia-DiTucci
* Why I Resolve Not To Make Resolutions            With Chronic Illness - Melissa Adams                VanHouten
* January in Medical History - AGMD
* What Does The Color, Consistency And              Shape Of Your Stool Mean? - AGMD


AGMD Address Reminder

Effective October 16, 2017: AGMD has moved to a new location in Lexington, Massachusetts. Our new address is: 
140 Pleasant Street, Lexington, MA 02421.

Our phone number remains the same: (781) 275-1300!


Congratulations to Dr. Richard McCallum - Honored To Have Him As One Of Our Original Medical Advisors And For All He Has Done And Continues To Do For AGMD

Richard McCallum, M.D., professor and founding chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), was recently named a 2017 Laureate by the Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians (ACP).

The Laureate Award is given to Texas physicians "who have demonstrated by their example and conduct an abiding commitment to excellence in medical care, education or research, and in service to their community, their chapter and the American College of Physicians," said George Crawford, M.D., the Texas Southern ACP governor.

Dr. McCallum, who has been a member of different state chapters of the ACP since 1975, has made major advances in the diagnosis and treatment of the digestive disorder gastroparesis. In patients with gastroparesis, food moves through the stomach much more slowly than normal.  
Dr. McCallum has researched the interactions between the brain and stomach to understand the causes of associated nausea and vomiting, and more effectively treat the disease.

Dr. McCallum holds three patents and is the inventor of a gastric pacemaker to help patients who cannot digest food properly. His findings have appeared in more than 450 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 120 textbook chapters. He has also edited 14 scientific textbooks on gastroenterology.

"As a leader in the Texas medical community; teacher of students, residents and gastroenterology fellows; prodigious investigator; nationally and internationally recognized contributor to the field of gastroenterology; clinician; researcher and chair of departments and societies, Dr. McCallum exemplifies the best aspects of our profession and was unanimously selected by the Texas ACP nomination committee for the Laureate Award," Dr. Crawford said.

In his acceptance speech, Dr. McCallum noted that he was the second TTUHSC El Paso faculty member to receive the Laureate Award from the ACP, which has been awarded annually since 1985. Harry Davis II, M.D., associate professor and vice chair for education in the Department of Internal Medicine, received the award in 2011.

"The list of prior recipients of this honor includes some of the most well-known and productive physicians from the state of Texas," Dr. Davis said. "I was deeply honored to be included among those who had received this lifetime pinnacle award."

Dr. McCallum said he was proud of TTUHSC El Paso's evolution since his arrival in 2009. He said he has had great mentors in his career, and is dedicated to mentoring medical students, residents, fellows and junior faculty. "This award is indeed an honor for my career, as well as for the school," Dr. McCallum said. "It is a recognition of my body of work focused on diagnosing and treating patients, while at the same time incorporating a teaching environment and a research culture to help produce the future leaders in clinical and academic gastroenterology."

Dr. McCallum joined TTUHSC El Paso in 2009 as professor and founding chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. In 2014, he established the RotaCare Clinic in El Paso in partnership with the Rotary Club. This clinic is a resource for individuals with no other access to health care services, and provides first- and second-year medical students with one of their initial clinical experiences, under the supervision of licensed physicians.

In addition to his appointment at TTUHSC El Paso, Dr. McCallum is the director of gastroenterology research and the Center for Neurogastroenterology and GI Motility, and an honorary professor in the Departments of Medicine and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Queensland Australia. He has also served on the gastroenterology faculty at the Yale University School of Medicine, and as chief of gastroenterology and the GI fellowship program at the University of Virginia and the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Credit to: El Paso Herald-Post


Sharing Love and Light - Our New Volunteer!

Welcome Margie Kugler

AGMD is honored to welcome Margie Kugler as a new volunteer to our organization.  Margie will be sharing her talents and writings with AGMD.

Margie is a young-minded 55-year-old lady who has lived in Perth, Western Australia, all her life.  Seventeen years ago, she was diagnosed with Crest Syndrome and has had Raynaud's from the age of 27.  Not long after being diagnosed with Crest, she developed scleroderma and, through the years, has added about 12 other connected diseases, including heart disease and gastroparesis.

Through her own personal therapies, she published a book of journaled poetry, which depicts poetry, affirmations, dedications, and enlightenment with her challenging chronic illnesses. Margie loves helping others and is working on her second book. 

With the time she has, she writes, reads often, and has a website for her book, on which she blogs. As an additional hobby, she loves Ă„ngel Card Reading.  Margie is committed to being positive and finding a cure for scleroderma.


January is National Blood Donor Month
The American Red Cross is urging eligible donors to give more life to patients now and into the new year by giving blood or platelets.
Donations decline during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day when busy holiday schedules cause regular donors to be less available to give and many blood drives may be canceled due to severe winter storms. Last year, nearly 64,000 fewer blood and platelet donations were given through the Red Cross during the seven weeks from Thanksgiving through the first week of January than the average during the rest of the year.
"By taking just about an hour of time today, you can help save someone's life within a few weeks or even days of your donation," said Nick Gehrig, Field Marketing and Communications Director of the Red Cross Blood Services. "We're asking donors to give now to help ensure blood is available when patients need it most."
Blood is perishable and can only be replenished by volunteer donors. Red blood cells, the most transfused blood product, must be transfused within 42 days.  Platelets , the tiny cells that form clots and help stop bleeding, must be transfused within just five days. More than half of all platelet donations go to cancer patients who may need platelet transfusions to prevent life-threatening bleeding during chemotherapy.
"Platelet donors don't have to wait a few weeks to make a difference in a patient's life," said Gehrig. "Someone could donate platelets on Monday, and by Friday, those same platelets can help someone's fight to kick cancer."
Kelly Ellison certainly knows that. Twenty-eight weeks into her third pregnancy, she was raced to the hospital with uncontrollable bleeding and received a doubly devastating diagnosis. Not only did she have aplastic anemia - a rare blood disorder in which the body's bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells - doctors also detected kidney cancer. Kelly received 43 units of blood and platelets. Five weeks later, she gave birth prematurely to her son, who also needed blood transfusions to survive.
"Our lives have been forever changed because of lifesaving blood and platelet donations," said Ellison. "Every breath I take is a blessing!"
How to donate blood or platelets:
Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver's license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, from a computer or mobile device. To get started and learn more, visit and follow the instructions on the site.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on

Digestive Motility Myths and Facts
Myth All gastroparesis patients are thin. 

Fact: Gastroparesis patients may be underweight, thin, average weight or obese.  

Ellen Stein, MD, ACP Member, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, stated: "And remember that not all gastroparesis patients will be thin; actually, many are overweight. 'If you really had gastroparesis, you'd be thin,' is one of the more damaging myths about the disease," Dr. Stein said. "Obese patients can have it and can even require nutritional support if they've recently lost 10% or more of their body weight."

Financial Challenges
Among the potential challenges facing individuals with chronic illness is the inability to work. Loss of a job due to poor health can have devastating effects, not only on the patient, but on the entire family. There are many issues which can come into play. Finances, relationships, self-esteem, self-worth, a sense of purpose in life, guilt, anger, and a host of varied emotions can become major hurdles.

Whether you are a sole provider, part of a two-income family, or a part-time worker, the strains of unemployment and escalating bills can be disastrous.

Previous to the unemployment, some families may have lived paycheck to paycheck just to make ends meet. Others may have accumulated insurmountable debt. Some may have saved for retirement, college, a house, or a trip only to see the money of their dreams dwindle into a shocking reality. 

If you are chronically ill, you may begin to have feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness. These feelings are "normal" in light of what you are experiencing. However, they can easily escalate out of control if you think you no longer can contribute financially or feel guilty because your family now must make so many financial and other sacrifices because of you. This may lead to depression.

Children may find that their parents can no longer afford many of the luxuries they previously could. School and social activities may have to be curtailed. Shopping for clothes, sporting events, and other items may be off-limits, and dining out may become a thing of the past. Teenagers and older children may be prompted to get a job or leave school in order to help provide for the family.

In many "healthy" relationships, money may be an Achilles' heel that can easily provoke an argument or disagreement, but when money is strained, the issue becomes a powder keg. In the case of households with only one family income, the income-earner may feel resentment that he or she must be the sole provider and take care of the patient as well. Family members may begin to exhibit signs of resentment.

Some families, however, unite during these times and manage to work together and support each other to get through all the rough spots.

If you find that you and your family cannot work through these problems, there is help available, and you should be encouraged to ask for assistance. The following are a few suggestions:

  • Talk to your employer and possibly negotiate working from home or on a part-time basis
  • Speak with creditors about your medical and financial status to see if a more affordable payment plan can be arranged
  • Try to stay within a budget
  • Start your own career or pursue  a job through the Internet. This may be something you can do from home
  • Talk with your doctors and hospital personnel regarding your limited ability to pay
  • Consult with a social worker about your financial concerns
  • Talk with your direct family and extended family members, friends, and religious organizations about your financial problems and see if they, too, can help
  • Many local districts provide resources that might be available to assist families in need during times of crisis. Contact these organization for options
  • Call your drug manufacturer to see if they will offer free or discounted medications
Some Helpful Financial Resources
By Melissa Adams VanHouten & AGMD

Need Help Paying Bills
GSK For You
Health Well Foundation

Helpful Articles

Pocket Sense
Saying Goodbye To A Career
By Maryangela DeGrazia-DiTucci

I can remember clearly when I had to make the decision to resign from my multiple positions. It was evident from my dwindling attendance and the intensity and duration of my symptoms that the time had come.  I knew as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up and went on to college to pursue my dream.  But life became unraveled when my digestive motility disorders invaded my life, and having to say goodbye to my career felt like a punishment for being ill. But the reality was, I could not maintain my career and all the activities in which I was involved.

The day I handed in my resignation to one of the schools I worked at, the principal read my letter as I stood in her office. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "I am not accepting your resignation.  I will keep it on file, but when you get better, you can be reassured that you will be able to come back and resume your positions here."  In one respect, my heart was filled with joy ... the prospect of being able to get better and return was such a ray of hope. As I left the office, my mind kept playing her words over and over again. But as time went on, the symptoms intensified, I became weaker and weaker, and my hope of ever returning diminished into a harsh reality: that chapter in my life was over.

Sitting on my rocking chair while alone in the living room, all I could hear was the ticking of the grandfather clock, and I glanced outside the window watching life pass by. As I mourned the loss of my passionate career and my former life, the ticking of the clock and the view out the window put me in deep thought.  What am I going to do with my life?  Am I just going to sit in a rocking chair all day and watch life pass by, or am I going to learn to accept that part of my life is over and a new chapter is being written where I can be either a spectator or participant?

It was at that point of acceptance ... that change in my thought process ... that things began to happen. Who would have thought that, in 1991, God would have placed AGMD in my life, giving me a purpose far greater than what I ever could have imagined?

As time went on, I can recall a nurse and someone who became a very dear friend, Carol Weatherbee, contacting me via AGMD. The first time she called, she poured her heart out and tearfully recounted how she had just lost her job because of her illness. Her career, her life's work, work that she loved, was gone in an instant.  I listened carefully and could certainly relate to everything she was saying. And then I told her that she would always be a nurse, but her purpose would change and be redirected. I invited her to become involved in AGMD, where she would be sharing her knowledge and experience, but in a different way and to a different audience. Calm took over her voice and then was replaced with excitement and a redefined and rejuvenated sense of purpose.

Mourning the many losses which can accompany living with digestive motility disorders is all part of learning acceptance. It can be an important and necessary process in order to move forward and be productive in one's life. No matter what chapter of life you are in, know that everyone has a purpose in life. The detours in life may be unexpected and often challenging beyond description, but your value does not decrease because of an illness; instead, your purpose elevates as you inherently become a teacher, informing others about digestive motility and your experiences. By doing so, you ultimately end up helping others and drawing more awareness to these often debilitating disorders.

If you are interested in volunteering for AGMD, we would love to hear from you. You can email us at: We also welcome your story concerning how you found a new sense of purpose while living with your illness. Please email submissions to:  The AGMD Light House.

Photo credit: Lisa McDonald, Massachusetts, AGMD Volunteer
Why I Resolve Not to Make
Resolutions With Chronic Illness
By Melissa Adams VanHouten

I have never felt obligated to make New Year's resolutions just because "everyone" does. In fact, I shy away from such pledges because I do not like the nature of set-in-stone pronouncements one feels compelled to make and keep. I have always found this to be  anxiety-producing, but especially so since being diagnosed with  gastroparesis.

That is not to say I do not take stock of where I have been or lack vision for where I plan to go. Like most, I review the year which has passed and contemplate the year to come; however, my illness has taught me the value of living in the moment and of not getting too far ahead of myself, and so, I assess my state of affairs not just at the end of the year, but on an ongoing basis as well. And rather than establishing one-time, rigid, year-long directives, I prefer to set both short-term, more easily achievable "mini-goals" and long-term, perhaps-attainable, "that would be really nice" intentions.

Further, though I do have concrete deadlines for some projects, I try to build flexibility into my schedule and leave room for error and setbacks along the way. As one who lives with a serious chronic illness which seems to have a mind and will of its own and which frequently imposes limits on what and how much I can do, I simply must allow for "adjustability" whenever possible. I can and do complete some assignments on time, but deadlines often must be extended to accommodate my illness. And so, I find the one-year mark arbitrary in terms of judging success or failure.

The pressure (brought on by one's self or by others) to keep resolutions can be overwhelming if one allows. It is easy to fall into an "all or nothing" mindset where anything short of 100 percent of the goal, any small backward step or near-completion, is viewed as utter defeat. But this is not failure; it is genuine advancement - especially in the world of chronic illness where we frequently must contend with standstills and setbacks.

No, instead of resolutions, I prefer to make ongoing commitments which are easily revised should the need arise and forgive myself when I do not accomplish all I had dreamed of in one year's time. This does not make me unmotivated or mean I am not goal-oriented; nor does it make me lazy, pessimistic, or paint me as less than visionary. It merely means I am realistic about my limitations, and I recognize life sometimes gets in the way of the best-laid plans.

So, at the beginning of this new year, if you feel compelled to make a pledge, please consider the following: Resolve to ignore the pressure and set aside the expectations of others, and, instead, live life on your own terms and at your own pace. That just might be a resolution worth keeping.

Melissa Adams VanHouten is a dedicated wife and mother who was diagnosed with gastroparesis in February of 2014. She is a former university political science instructor and corporate trainer who holds a B.S. in Political Science from St. Joseph's College and an M.A. in Political Science from Indiana State University.  As an AGMD volunteer and creator and administrator of several online support and advocacy groups, she now spends her days advancing the cause of those who struggle to live with the sometimes devastating and life-altering effects of gastroparesis.  It is her fondest desire to empower others to advocate for awareness, better treatments, and, ultimately, a cure.
January in Medical History

Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake , (born January 21, 1840,  Hastings Sussex , England and died January, 7, 1912, Mark Cross). Sophia was a British physician who successfully sought legislation (1876) permitting women in  Britain  to receive the M.D. degree and a license to practice  medicine  and surgery. Through her efforts, a medical school for women was opened in  London  in 1874, and, in 1886, she established one in Edinburgh.

Jex-Blake attended  Queen's College, London, and then studied for three years in Boston and New York, returning to  England in 1868. She was admitted to classes in medicine at the  University of Edinburgh but was not allowed to take a degree. In 1877, she obtained the M.D. of the University of Bern and, through the King's and Queen's College of Physicians, Dublin, a license to practice in Great Britain.

On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell (born February 3, 1821, died May 31, 1910) became the first woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States, graduating first in her class. Elizabeth was a pioneer in promoting the education of women in medicine in the United States and was a public health activist.

In 1868, Dr. Blackwell opened a medical college in New York City. In 1869, she returned permanently to London and, in 1875, became a professor of gynecology at the newly established London School of Medicine for Women, where she remained from 1875 to 1907. In the late 1870s, Dr. Blackwell gave up practicing medicine but continued to campaign for reform. 

In 1984, Britain's first test-tube triplets - a girl and two boys - were born to a couple in London. The mother was Anne Maaye.
In 1677, the first medical book was published in the U.S. The medical pamphlet was published in Boston, Massachusetts.
January 12, 1948: Red Cross begins its National Blood Program for civilians by opening its first collection center in Rochester, NY. 
January 13, 1983: United States blood banking groups issue their first warning about Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
What Does The Color,  Consistency,
And Shape Of Your Stool Mean?

Stool can come in various colors, shapes and  consistencies . What might all these colors, shapes and consistencies  mean and when might they be indicative of a problem?

Green Stool - May indicate food is moving too quickly through the large intestine. For example, in the case of diarrhea, bile food may be moving through the large intestine too quickly. As a result, bile (fluid made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, which helps break down fats and get rid of waste in the body) does not have time to break down completely. Green stool may also be caused by eating green leafy vegetables or products containing green food coloring.

White/Clay Colored Stool - This may occur as a result of lack of bile in the stool. It may be an indication of a bile duct obstruction. Certain medications may also be a factor.

Yellow, Greasy, Foul Smelling Stool - Celiac disease or malabsorption may cause yellow, greasy, and foul smelling stool. 

Black Stool - Black stool may be indicative of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, but it may also be due to consumption of iron supplements, Bismuth subsalicylate, and black licorice.

Bright Red Stool - When stool is bright red, this may mean there is bleeding stemming from issues of the lower intestinal tract, such as hemorrhoids. Other causes could be consuming products containing red food coloring or eating beets, cranberries, or red gelatin, or drinking tomato juices.

Orange Stool - When stool appears orange in color, this could mean the bile ducts are blocked. Certain medications and consumption of foods rich in beta carotene can also cause an orange appearance.

The Bristol Stool Scale is a chart which identifies seven categories of poop. By defining different presentations of poop, a doctor can usually identify the potential underlying cause.

Doctors from England's Bristol Royal Infirmary developed the scale after a large-scale study on the bowel habits of nearly 2,000 men and women. The chart is as follows:

Nationwide Children's Hospital has a good article called "The Poop Palette: What Do All Those Colors Mean?" which includes an excellent chart describing the various types of baby and toddler stool.  See: 


We Welcome Your Submissions and Feedback!  

Do you enjoy writing? Whether you keep a blog, journal, or just enjoy writing in general, we would love to hear from you!

AGMD welcomes and encourages patients and family members, as well as those in the medical, nutritional, and related healthcare communities, to share their stories and heart with others so that they may not feel so alone. If you ha ve thought about writing articles, submitting poems, sharing your photos, or providing helpful tips, why not take a moment to enlighten others? Your words will be helping so many people! 

Please click on the following link for submission guidelines:  AGMD Newsletter Submission Tips and Guidelines.
Please note that submission of content is not a guarantee of publication, and AGMD reserves the right to edit all submissions as needed.   Email submissions to:  AGMD Lighthouse .

Don't miss out on The AGMD Beacon, 
AGMD's quarterly publication for members!    
Included in each issue 
Advances in medical science, genetics, and clinical trials 
Learn about diagnostic testing 
Focus on a specific digestive disorder
Spotlight on inspiring patients and caregivers  
Articles on health insurance, pediatrics, and mental health   
Tips for our tubie readers 
Humor, puzzles, poetry, and inspiration 
Photo gallery of members, family, and pets
And more!

Interested in receiving this premium content? Join AGMD as a member with a suggested donation of $35.
AGMD offers an exempt program for those unable to afford dues
The Association of Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders, Inc. (AGMD) is a non-profit international organization which relies on membership dues, corporate sponsorship, grants, and the generosity of individuals for funding. Last year we commemorated our twenty-fifth anniversary. It was a time to celebrate, but also a time to evaluate if our financial needs could continue to meet our many future goals and programs.

We ask for your tax-deductible donations throughout the year as a way of showing your support and commitment to our organization and its important mission.
AGMD is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Employee Identification Number: 04-3125259
Our Mission

AGMD serves as an integral educational resource concerning digestive motility diseases and disorders. It also functions as an important information base for members of the medical, scientific, and nutritional communities. In addition, AGMD provides a forum of support for patients suffering from digestive motility disorders as well as their families.  
Association of Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders, Inc. (AGMD)
  Serving as a Beacon of Hope since 1991!
Phone:  781-275-1300
Address:  140 Pleasant Street, Lexington, MA 02421
AGMD Inspire Online Community
The AGMD Lighthouse is published monthly, by the Association of Gastrointestinal Motility disorders, Inc. (AGMD).  All AGMD members receive an automatic subscription included in their membership.
The opinions expressed in this publication may not necessarily be the opinions of AGMD. In addition, the organization may not necessarily endorse a product, advertisement, or event described in the publication.
The information contained in this publication should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.  
AGMD has made every effort to insure accuracy of information, however, the organization is not responsible or liable for inadvertent materials.
The AGMD Lighthouse is a copyrighted publication. No content may be copied in any form, either in part or in its entirety, without the expressed written consent of AGMD.
Inquiries and permission requests may be addressed to the AGMD International Corporate Headquarters. For previously copyrighted and published articles submitted by professional and/or general members, AGMD must have secured release permission from both the author and publisher.