"I think I first remember having problems with reflux or indigestion when I was about 10 years old, and I'm not quite sure if maybe I even had it before that, but I remember at 10, that was when I first realized what it was, and that there was this acid that was coming up my swallowing tube, or my esophagus. At that time, I would have this burning sensation and pain and some nausea, and occasionally even vomiting associated with it.
Very shortly after that, I learned real quick what I could and couldn't eat. I learned that I couldn't eat spicy foods, I couldn't eat acidic drinks or foods, so that certainly changed my child[hood] growing up. I couldn't eat chili, couldn't eat oranges or grapefruits or drink juices like those. So I really, certainly altered my life as I was growing up.
As a young adult, I then sought medical care for this problem, and of course, that started with just antacids from over the counter, elevating the head of my bed. And, as time went along, Tagamet came out...that was the first medication I tried. I kind of went through all the medications that were available at the time, and my disease would get better and worse as time went along....but it was always there.
Even gaining as little as five pounds would make my symptoms significantly worse. Sometimes I had trouble sleeping; sometimes I had chest pain that felt very much like what I thought that angina would feel like...what heart pain would feel like. When I was pregnant with my children, my pregnancies were particularly uncomfortable because women who are pregnant tend to have indigestion anyway, and with the fact that I was already predisposed to it, I was very uncomfortable throughout my pregnancies with this reflux disease, or indigestion.
And then, as time went along, I knew that there was surgery available for this, but I also knew that I wanted for the surgeons to refine the procedure, have plenty of time to gain some expertise with it; certainly the more procedures a surgeon does, the better they become at doing those techniques. The procedure also--when I first heard of it--was a procedure that required a significant abdominal incision. And then, as years went by, a scope procedure was developed.
A couple of years ago, my disease had gotten to the point where I was waking up five and six times a night. I would wake up coughing, and/or with this acid feeling in my esophagus. (I certainly)...My diet was very limited on what I could eat, I was eating certainly just pretty much bland foods as I had most of my life. So I decided that it was probably about time to sit down and talk to someone about this. I knew Dr. Hazelrigg, and so my husband and I went in to his clinic and sat down and talked with him about the procedure, and talked with him about the symptoms that I had had. And he suggested to me that he did think that I was a good candidate for the procedure, and that I probably should have the procedure done. The fact that I knew him, he wanted to be sure that I didn't feel pressured to have him do the surgery, and he offered at that time to seek out for me someone else in the country or anyone else in the country that I might be interested in having do the surgery. But I'm familiar with Dr. Hazelrigg's work, with his expertise particularly with thoracoscopic procedures, and with this laparoscopic, what's called a nisson fundoplication for the disease that I had....so he was the person that I wanted to have do the surgery.
Actually I was in the hospital probably a little less than 24 hours, or certainly not much more than that. But certainly, after the procedure, there are some things that one has to be careful about. We start out with a liquid diet, and then moving up to a soft diet. I watched the breads and meats that I ate for a few weeks after my surgery. Probably by three months, I was able to eat anything that I wanted to eat, and things that I had never eaten before. And, I remember at one time seeing Dr. Hazelrigg in follow-up and telling him how wonderful orange juice tasted, and I remember him kind of laughing at me about that, but I had not ever been able to drink orange juice and really know how wonderful orange juice is.
And so, certainly, since that time, now I've been able to enjoy a variety of foods--spicy foods--that I had never been able to taste before. So, I'm a little over a year after my surgery; I've not had one incident of reflux, not one incident of indigestion since I had my surgery done. So, I'm very pleased that I had it done and I think that anyone who has these symptoms on a chronic situation should consider the surgery, because now that it can be done laparoscopically, it's not such a big operation that the risks of the operation are high, and certainly the rewards are great."
For additional information, please contact
Theresa M. Boley, R.N., M.S.N., FNP-CS
Stephen R. Hazelrigg, M.D
Professor and Chair
Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery
SIU School of Medicine