Fundraiser Launched for Upper West Side Woman Suffering Life-Threatening Intestinal Disorder

A 39-year-old Upper West Side woman suffering from a life-threatening intestinal disorder is hoping a fundraiser will help her cover medical and living expenses and make life a little easier as she struggles to survive and regain her health.

Sarah Dreisinger, who weighs just 50 pounds, has short bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as a host of other medical issues stemming from having her entire colon removed at age 21. She’s endured eight surgeries and numerous hospitalizations.

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Her body has difficulty absorbing nutrients from the few foods she is able to eat, she said during an interview with ILTUWS. She stopped seeing doctors a few years ago when, she said, they gave up on her and told her she should be in hospice.

Sarah Dreisinger is hoping people will contribute to a fundraiser to help her cover mounting expenses.

Instead of doctors, she said she now relies on her husband David for medical advice and direction, saying no one knows her and her condition better. Although he has had no medical training, she said he is self-taught. Her dietary regimen consists of eating only steak and vanilla ice cream, she said, just once a day, and nine sips of water per day. She said she doesn’t sleep and hasn’t been outside her apartment in a year, except to get in a cab.

Sarah Dreisinger and husband David.

The new GoFundMe campaign, launched last week by a friend, has a goal of $40,000. Dreisinger said her hefty expenses include her medical bills and a $3,250 monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment she and David share on West 110th Street, in the Towers on the Park building.

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She also hopes to be able to get a new laptop to replace one that broke recently, be able to go out to eat occasionally, and maybe buy a session or two at a spa to feel pampered and pretty. She also hopes to buy David an electric scooter, so he can more easily get to distant locations throughout the city where he coaches soccer, and a gym membership.

The fundraiser also mentions the possibility of getting an intestinal system transplant, a complicated multi-surgery procedure that might save her life. But Dreisinger said she is thus far reluctant to pursue that option. It’s a three-year ordeal, risky and, in the end, might not even be successful, she said.

“I’d like to avoid that,” she said. “It’s dangerous, it’s expensive and it may or may not work.”

David’s coaching job does not provide medical insurance but Dreisinger has Medicare, she said. They get by financially on David’s modest income and she receives disability support. And generosity. Another fundraiser launched last year raised about $40,000, and a few years ago, she sold her wedding and engagement rings to cover some medical bills.

Dreisinger grew up in Riverdale and has lived on the UWS for 14 years. She has a law degree from Cardozo School of Law and was a practicing attorney until a few years ago when her health forced her to stop. Now her days are spent mostly on the couch in her living room reading and dreaming of eating the foods she likes.

Bland steak and ice cream, she said, are the only foods she can tolerate. When money wasn’t as tight, she and David often went out to eat at her two favorite Upper West Side restaurants: Porterhouse Bar and Grill and Gennaro, both of which were kind and supportive and accommodated her dietary needs. She has tried other foods but often has trouble digesting them and is sometimes left in pain. That’s made her fearful of trying others, she said.

“I’m scared,” she said of trying new foods.

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She tried a feeding tube but said it didn’t agree with her and caused issues with her liver. Doctors had recommended a vegan and gluten-free diet, she said, but she took matters into her own hands when that wasn’t working.

“Two years ago I said to David, ‘I want steak.’ It’s been the best thing for me.”

Her inability to sleep is also largely caused by fear. “I’m afraid I won’t wake up,” she said.

Dreisinger’s ordeal began when she was diagnosed at 14 with ulcerative colitis and IBD. She said doctors also suspect she has had Crohn’s disease all along. At 21 she had the colectomy and her health has deteriorated ever since, including suffering a ruptured esophagus during a surgery several years ago that left her with septic shock and in a coma. Doctors gave her little chance of surviving, but with each crisis, she’s defied doctors’ predictions and survived. Now, she says, she is suffering from total digestive failure.

She tells us she and David would like to move somewhere warmer because people with IBD tend to do better in warmer climates, and her frail body struggles to stay warm when it’s cold. But moving would be a huge expense, she said.

If there isn’t a medical route to improvement, she said she hopes her body will in time accept additional foods and regain strength. But she doesn’t know how much longer she can survive in such a fragile and precarious condition. She is isolated in her apartment and longs for the active life she once had, hoping to one day be able to eat foods she loves like cereal, pizza and bagels.

“I am trying to fight but it’s getting harder every day,” she said.

To contribute to the GoFundMe campaign, click here.


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