Take a moment and imagine how your life would be affected by persistent heartburn, coughing or a hoarse voice. Up to 30-percent of Americans experience these symptoms on a daily or weekly basis, as they battle a condition called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – or, GERD. GERD occurs when digestive juices from food you have eaten are refluxed from the stomach into the esophagus, which can irritate the esophageal lining. This can lead to severe inflammation, ulceration and scarring. In addition, chronic injury from reflux can lead to esophageal cancer.
How did GERD affect Kayla?
As a teen in high school, De Pere native Kayla Hill was experiencing symptoms of GERD on a regular basis. She had an upset stomach, a hoarse voice and persistent coughing – but rarely experienced heartburn – one of the more common symptoms of GERD.
“Many doctors believed my symptoms were being caused by allergies or asthma, but could never find something that would help me get better and stay well,” said Kayla.
Without a proper diagnosis or treatment, Kayla’s symptoms continued to affect her into her college years at UW-Whitewater, where she is currently studying for a degree in Human Resource Management.
“I have a lot of group presentations and would lose my voice for up to 14 days at a time,” said Kayla. “Since I wasn’t able to present, I had to try and do extra work for my group to prevent from being downgraded.”
Kayla also found her symptoms were interfering with her ability to be with her friends and function at work.
“I would never be able to tell when I was going to lose my voice or feel under the weather,” said Kayla. “I hated this because I did not want my co-workers to see me as unreliable or not hard-working.”
A proper diagnosis and treatment
Meanwhile, Kayla and her mom were working hard to find Kayla some relief from the symptoms that were having such an impact on her young, goal-driven life.
After extensive research of her symptoms, Kayla made an appointment with the Prevea Heartburn Treatment Center which specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and care of heartburn, GERD and other esophageal diseases. It is the only treatment center of its kind in Northeast Wisconsin, located inside HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center in Green Bay.
“Diagnostic testing performed by a health care provider specializing in diseases of the esophagus is the only way to definitively diagnose GERD,” said Sally Bowa, Nurse Practitioner and Patient Coordinator for the Prevea Heartburn Treatment Center. “If someone finds themselves having symptoms despite taking medication, or if they develop new symptoms or nighttime reflux, it’s time to get a thorough evaluation from a GERD specialist who can provide an accurate diagnosis and discuss the latest treatment options.”
Kayla’s thorough evaluation and testing at the Prevea Heartburn Treatment Center helped to determine that GERD, was in fact, causing her symptoms and that a new treatment – in place of the oral medication she had been taking – was needed.
In January 2015, Kayla underwent a state-of-the-art procedure that was the first of its kind to ever be performed in the greater Green Bay area. The procedure uses the LINX Reflux Management System and is performed by Prevea’s Dr. Hassanain Jassim, a general surgeon with additional fellowship training in minimally-invasive gastrointestinal surgery.
The LINX procedure involves placing a small, flexible band of interlinked magnetic beads around the patient’s esophagus, just above the stomach. The device is designed so that swallowing forces temporarily break the magnetic bond, allowing food and liquid to pass normally into the stomach. At the same time, the magnetic attraction of the device helps the body’s normal sphincter to prevent reflux from the stomach to the esophagus.
Patients are placed under general anesthesia for this minimally-invasive procedure, and most go home the same day. Patients do not have to go on a special diet after surgery; in fact, they are instructed to resume a regular diet. They also come off their anti-reflux medications immediately.
Finally, Kayla finds some relief.
“After hearing and reading about what this device (LINX) was supposed to do for me - I challenged it and ate things that would normally bother me,” said Kayla. “I have been able to eat rich pizza sauces, citrus fruit, and high acidic foods without any problems!”
Kayla has also been able to stop taking two different medications designed to ease her GERD symptoms.
“I am so happy that I had this procedure done to change my life for the better,” said Kayla.
To make an appointment at the Prevea Heartburn Treatment Center, call (920) 429-1700.