The onetime model, Lisa Brown from Brookfield, Wisconsin was being slowly starved to death by superior mesenteric artery syndrome (SMAS), a rare digestive system disorder in which a portion of the small intestine is compressed, obstructing food from passing through, according to the National Institutes of Health who inspired many by her struggle for survival went viral in 2015, died at her home in Wisconsin.
People would say I should eat a burger, and they’d ask me why I was starving myself. It was very hard to hear, but I knew the truthLisa Brown to People magazine
The 34-year-old, who stood 5-foot-10 and weighed 140 pounds when healthy, told People magazine that she had dropped to 77 pounds several days before she died. Family members said she was surrounded by loved ones at the time of her death.
“It's my time to go," she was heard saying to the magazine. "I'm done fighting."
Patrick Brown, her husband on a GoFundMe Page wrote that he started to help his wife pay her medical bills, said Lisa who devoted her final years to helping raise awareness about SMAS. He referred to her as "the most amazing woman I have ever met."
“Today marks the day where my best friend, my teammate, my wife is finally free from suffering and pain,” he added. “She went to heaven peacefully with her family by her side. I would say an angel got her wings, but she was and is more than an angel.”
Brown's began fighting her disease from when she was 28. Until then, she had never worried about her weight and led an active life that included horseback riding, going to the gun range, and having a jewelry business on Etsy and a large group of friends.
Patricia Neuhauser said her daughter began to notice that each time she ate, she felt full more quickly than usual. After a while, tight clothing became loose, and her pink sapphire wedding ring slipped off. By the time she weighed herself, she was shocked to find she had dropped from 140 to 112 pounds in 2015.
"It was like my ability to eat quantities had shrunk and shrunk, until eventually I couldn't eat anything," Brown told People, recalling that she began to suffer from severe abdominal pain and debilitating nausea around the same time. "I would be in tears from the pain and so angry because it didn't make any sense."
I think she was just a born teacher. She loved modeling and would choreograph fashion shows and teach people about modeling. She was also a substance-abuse counselor and enjoyed helping people and teaching them through her workPatricia Neuhauser
As her health worsened, and people began to assume she was suffering from an eating disorder, Brown turned to doctors in an exhausting search for answers. She said she was "passed back and forth" between specialists who performed a litany of gastrointestinal tests, such as gastric imaging, endoscopy and colonoscopy, according to Good Housekeeping.
There was a doctor that thought she had an eating disorder and who didn't believe the disorder was real," she said. "The disorder is so rare some doctors don't know about it, but we were finally able to find health professionals with an open mind."
"She could see the pinched area of my intestine very clearly in the scan and the actual doctors reports," Brown, then 32, told the magazine describing about her gastroenterologist at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee noticed in a former CT scan and angiogram that a portion of Brown's intestine was pinched. "There were also notations by other doctors about the pinch, suggesting further investigation for superior mesenteric artery syndrome. But nobody ever told me, which is frustrating. Now, I tell people to be their own advocate and check your own medical records."
Neuhauser said her family has been devastated by her daughter's death, but they take comfort knowing that their loved one is no longer in pain. They hope her story reaches others who may be struggling with SMAS but don't realize they have the disorder or parents who assume that their child has an eating disorder.
"Lisa would always stay calm and tell them she had a serious disease," her mother said. "They'd apologize, and she would use the experience as a way to educate people about SMAS."
"She didn't want to hide her illness, and I think she's still educating people even though she is no longer here," Neuhauser added.