While each person’s journey with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is different, they all have similar debilitating characteristics which can include intense heartburn, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, respiratory problems, tooth decay, nutritional deficiencies, esophageal damage and more. For Janet from Plainville, Massachusetts, her GERD journey began in 1969 when she was 13-years-old and didn’t end until meeting surgeon and GERD champion and expert Peter Lydon, MD, of Norwood Hospital in 2017.
“When I was about 13 years old, I started getting sick. My joints were hurting and I had an angry red rash. One day I wasn’t able to get out of bed and, after several more doctors’ appointments, I was diagnosed at Children’s Hospital Boston with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) now called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and prescribed 18-20 aspirin a day, which was the recommended therapy back then” said Janet.
With stoicism, Janet “crunched away” at her aspirin for several years and in her early 20s began to experience early symptoms of GERD, likely caused by the aspirin. In the early 1980s her physicians diagnosed Janet with Lupus because of her sun sensitivity and blood work results. While she considers herself “mostly healthy”, the Lupus diagnosis was a misdiagnosis as she had only some of the symptoms of the disease. Through the 90s and early 00s, Janet continued to suffer from more acute GERD symptoms which resulted in losing most of her upper teeth from acid reflux, painful scarring in her esophagus and a perpetual sore throat. According to Janet, her heartburn pain was so bad that she once thought she was having a heart attack. “I was an avid runner back in the day and one day, I was out on a run and thought I was having a massive heart attack. Things were that severe. I continued to seek treatment and was prescribed things like a milk diet, a bland diet, sleeping elevated and using a rescue inhaler to manage the ongoing respiratory issues. In the late 1990s, the first FDA-approved prescription medications became available and I was among the first wave of patients in the nation to be prescribed these medications. But, these were just Band-Aids over the real problem.”
Janet continued, “according to Dr. Lydon, I was micromanaging my GERD and not really getting to a solution,” she said. “I found Dr. Lydon through my primary care doctor when I received a letter about a new procedure being offered to help treat GERD.”
At an information session, Janet learned about the LINX Treatment for GERD. The minimally invasive procedure uses a tiny bracelet of magnetic titanium beads to surround and compress the lower esophageal sphincter. This valve normally prevents stomach fluids from refluxing into the esophagus.
According to Dr. Lydon, patients like Janet need a long-term solution to best manage their health and quality of life. “Unfortunately, over the years, there have been medications and recommendations that can help mask some of the symptoms of GERD but do not ultimately cure it. The LINX system is as close to a cure as we currently have and, through a thorough evaluation and tests, we can determine who will benefit from the device.”
He continued, “I am very thorough with my patients and explain everything they will experience after surgery including soft food diet restrictions for about a week, some discomfort, but ultimately a restoration of normal swallowing and digestion without the side effects of GERD.”
“I hesitated at first but a friend encouraged me to make an appointment with Dr. Lydon to just start testing,” said Janet. “I had total apprehension going into this and Dr. Lydon worked with me patiently to explain everything.”
According to Janet, she ate applesauce and yogurt for seven days, experienced some physical discomfort around day seven including experiencing a sluggish feeling while swallowing and by the end of the month was swallowing and burping normally. She missed only one day of work because of the surgery and felt that Dr. Lydon and his team stayed close with her during the healing phase.
“For me, this was a life changer,” said Janet. “I can eat food again. I love tomatoes but haven’t had them in years. Now I can have them. My parents would send me a box of oranges from their trip to Florida every year and, I wasn’t able to eat them. Now I love oranges and orange juice. My sleep quality has improved although it took a while because I had trained myself over the years to wake up as soon as I slipped from an incline position. Now I sleep flat and sleep well.”
Janet says she’s noticed other little things that make a big difference to her. As an example, she is a dedicated blood donor but so many times was turned down because of anemia. Post-surgery, her iron counts climbed to normal levels.
“I finally feel like I have a cure and am in control of the disease,” said Janet. “While I know there can be a lot of caution when approaching surgery, the alternative here is that relying on medication will only get you so far but your symptoms will never completely go away. I’m completely medication free now. Not even a TUMs!”
“The ICU nurses were the most focused, professional, skilled people to have around you at such a frightening time – Jacinta Keating, RN and Roberta Trahan, RN – absolutely top notch taking care of my husband and keeping me in the loop. As for the physicians in ICU -- Dr. Koza and Dr. Le, they were so attentive and knowledgeable - we couldn't have asked for or received better care anywhere.”
"My wife's mother was a patient at Norwood Hospital. Her situation was deteriorating quickly. Despite the constant attention she required, the nursing staff assigned to that room was absolutely outstanding. I do not recall such a level of genuine compassion and caring from any other hospital we've been to. I would like to mention nurses Erin, Julie, and Paula who were nothing short of angels. And, also Chris on the night shift. Any patient would be lucky to be under their care, and Norwood Hospital is certainly lucky to have all of these caregivers on its staff."
"I had an operation performed by Dr. John Frasca, and he deserves over 10 stars, as he is a brilliant surgeon. From my pre-op visit to the nurses who took care of me, I have nothing but admiration for everybody at the hospital."
"The staff has been exceptional, caring, prompt and compassionate. I can't say enough good things about them."
"When times are bad, they are there and make everyone feel better. Thank you."
"Every single employee I came into contact with was professional, cutomer service oriented, made me feel at ease and as though I was their only patient. They are truly committed and behave as though they actually want to be there! I have never been anywhere that every single employee clearly demonstrated that they were happy to be there, greeted you with a smile and couldn't do enough to make you feel welcome and at ease. The hospital is kept neat, clean, and I believe extremely santiary. Your nursing staff is absolutely amazing! Not only did I have an incredibly talented surgeon, but the nurses provided such great 24/7 care. I have also experienced the services of your Emergency Department and found that to be be exceptional as well. You should be very proud of your efforts in establising a high caliber team of both health care and administrative professionals."
"The staff has been exceptional, caring, prompt and compassionate. I wouldn't think of going anywhere else."
"They seemed to make it their mission to bring a smile to my mom's face whenever they entered the room."
"I just had surgery there and the nurses were incredible!"
"They saved my husband's life, and I couldn't be more thankful to them."
"Both my wife and I were tremendously impressed with each and every staff member with whom we interacted. We have both had positive experiences at Norwood Hospital over the years, but last night everyone went truly above and beyond our expectations."