Recently we noted that a visitor to an active community Facebook page dedicated to LPR and GERD had posted a question asking for advice. We also noticed that one of RefluxMD’s members, Gerri Bower, posted several responses that we believe highlight the problem with the way GERD is treated today. We requested permission to share these posts, and we are confident that Gerri’s journey can truly help others seeking their path to relief and good health.
“I am going to get up on my soapbox again!!!
I sincerely hope you do some serious research on the medications your gastro doctor prescribed for you. PPIs have a list of side effects as long as your arm. It is my presumption that it won’t be too many years from now that most PPIs (proton pump inhibitor drugs) will be recalled, just like Vioxx was several years back. They were not to be taken as a lifetime treatment for heartburn/acid reflux/GERD, just read the warning label in the package.
Gastroenterologists’ habit of prescribing proton pump inhibitor drugs
Gastroenterologists certainly have their place in the area of digestive maladies. However, one must be aware that unless they are also surgeons, they are limited in how they can treat their patients. If you have a physical defect, or defects that are causing your problems (such as a hiatal hernia and or a damaged LES valve in your stomach that is allowing stomach acid to migrate upward into your esophagus), no pill or collection of pills is going to heal or correct those defects.
The pills merely cover up some of the symptoms. The damage from the acid continues its destruction, be it in your esophagus, your lungs, your throat, the enamel on your teeth, your tongue, even your sinuses and your auditory nerves. Diet changes also may help the symptoms, but again, if there is physical damage to the LES, that physical damage will still drive symptoms – period! I equate it to having a leak in the gas line of your vehicle. You can change the brand of gasoline, but that isn’t going to make that leak seal up.
Don’t be lulled into believing that a doctor can “manage” a patient’s acid reflux or GERD by prescribing a lifetime of pills with a follow up endoscopy every few years. What are they waiting for, your manageable condition to turn into cancer? Then what? It is not in most GI doctor’s best interest to send you down the “surgical road” no matter what he finds in the tests he performs on you – of course, unless you have esophageal cancer.
Finally, and most importantly, you must find a qualified surgeon who has taken an interest and initiative to learn the newer surgical techniques and can accurately diagnose what is causing your symptoms. A surgeon is not going to offer you surgery unless and until he finds physical damage, and then it will be one of the options offered. But you have to find out for sure before you know what you need to fix.
My story is a typical example of today’s status quo treatment model
I struggled for so many years getting nowhere with a variety of different doctors. Meanwhile, my feeling of wellness kept deteriorating and became more a feeling of being more and more sick and depressed. I became so demoralized just going to these doctors and being dismissed by them. It took me over 15 years before I finally found a doctor who would help me.
What he found was a paraesophageal hiatal hernia, which is the movement of part of the stomach up through a hole in the diaphragm. In my case, this part of my stomach had actually attached itself to the outside of my esophagus. This was an emergency waiting to happen. Also my LES valve was damaged to the point it was not closing, leaving an open door all the time for acid to migrate upward. I have permanent lung damage from the years of acid getting into my lungs.
About six years ago I made two trips to the ER because I couldn’t get enough air. Two years later I had another ambulance ride for the same thing. Thought I was going to die from suffocation. Still no help, but then I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. There was nothing general about it! I couldn’t breathe and I felt sick all the time.
I finally got a referral from my PCP for an endoscopy. This turned out to be a joke. The doctor who did it either didn’t know what he was even looking at, or he was a liar, or both. He diagnosed me having Barrett’s esophagus, but no hiatal hernia and told me that my LES was in perfect shape. His recommendation: take Prilosec and come back in three years for another scope. In our research this made no sense and scared us half to death with the fear of cancer.
A year later we heard about a surgeon who happened to be located near our home. We did some research on Dr. Janu and learned that he was one of the original pioneers of the TIF procedure. The more we read the more excited we got about the possibility of some real help. Our first appointment with him was so uplifting. He had reviewed my chart beforehand and immediately began explaining my problem. He drew half a dozen stick stomachs on a paper showing a hiatal hernia, a LES valve, and what happens when they are damaged. Then he drew pictures of the procedures he does to fix them, known as a TIF or a LINX surgery. He made it clear that before he was certain, he would have to do an endoscopy. I showed him my pictures and notes from my previous scope and I could just tell he had no faith in the previous surgeon’s explanation.
I found my solution to the pain of GERD
I was scheduled immediately for a barium swallow, an endoscopy, and he inserted a bravo 24-hour pH device in my esophagus. I had a 4 cm hiatal hernia and a distorted, damaged LES valve. He proposed a laparoscopic hernia repair followed by the TIF antireflux surgery procedure. Six months ago, I had a laparoscopic repair of the hiatal hernia followed by the TIF procedure. I had almost no pain and my reflux symptoms were gone immediately. More importantly, he found absolutely no evidence of Barrett’s esophagus. It was a successful surgery that has restored my feeling of wellness after many years of declining health.
I joined this forum after my surgery to share my story and urge people to not give up and not accept the indifference and poor care from the medical system. I want to highlight that there are excellent surgeons out there, but we need to have a way to sort out the ones that have 20 years of experience and the ones that don’t have the experience. We need to find the “Dr. Janus” that have expanded their expertise and have been trained in the newest surgical techniques to bring the best treatment to their patients. Otherwise, we are just shooting in the dark at the dartboard; the years roll by and our wellness just goes away – and none of us deserve that. We deserve the best care that is out there in a timely manner.
You owe it to yourself and your family to push forward and never give in – never give up. Take care. Gerri”
RefluxMD wants to thank Gerri for taking the time to share this story with others that are struggling to manage their symptoms and stop the progression of their disease. We think Gerri’s comment about qualified GERD experts is very important, and with our DocMatch online tool, we offer top surgeons and doctors within a reasonable distance for your home for your consideration. Thanks again, Gerri – we are so happy you finally found relief and good health.