Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – A patient’s Experience

GERD crept in very slowly on me. At first the heartburn and heaviness was a nuisance, a discomfort, which, with a busy schedule, I tried to ignore. As it increased, it became very convenient to pop antacids into my mouth and forget the whole thing for a while. The real problem would hit me at night, when I just could not lie flat without experiencing severe pressure in the chest, nausea and the terrible sensation that food would regurgitate anytime. Since extra pillows didn’t really help, I ended up purchasing a wedge which lifted me waist upwards, and helped a little. Meanwhile I continued to ingest antacids at an alarming rate, till I finally saw a gastroenterologist and got a new set of medicines, namely proton pump inhibitors. I took these for about three years, without thinking of the side effects that some of them have. I had become dependent on these medicines, which brought some relief during the day. Nights were unpredictable. The proverbial last straws were the choking episodes which would come on suddenly in deep sleep, and shock me into bolting upright. Every episode caused my husband to panic and pound me on the back till the stomach contents went back in or came out, and opened the airway. Of course, every time I felt sure that I had already breathed my last, and no more breaths would come! Good advice of doctor relatives led me to Dr. Deepraj Bhandarkar at Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai. What gave me a lot of confidence was the fact that he actually listened to me, and asked questions about my symptoms before looking at endoscopy test results etc. Especially in today’s situation when only tests and more tests seem to clarify things, never mind what the patient goes through. I also realized after some internet research that the procedure I would have to go through, a Nissen fundoplication, is a tricky one. It’s success depends on the skill and precision with which it is done. Many people tried to discourage me from going through this surgery, but I felt I had to take this chance to improve the quality of my life, trust the surgeon completely, and leave years of severe discomfort behind me. Minimal invasive surgery has many benefits. Recovery is much faster and the patient is reasonably independent. However, in this particular surgery, a lot of work takes place within the system, and one cannot expect to suddenly rise and shine immediately after. The first 24 hours are difficult, but not terrible. After that, each day becomes better than the previous one. I had to strictly follow the discipline of eating only pureed, blenderized food for nearly six weeks. Initially I did not have any desire for food. I used to stare at the soup, pureed fruit/vegetable and custard that was served. I found it difficult to swallow—even a teaspoonful does not go down the esophagus very easily. I had to be patient with myself. After about 4 weeks I felt I was ready to eat soft, semi solid foods. It is important to be very cautious at this stage, and go very slowly with changing food textures. At the end of two months I was back to normal food. In fact, I travelled to the US before 2 months were done, and even managed to eat some portions of fairly awful airline food! Dr. Bhandarkar’s advice of eating small portions more frequently has been very helpful. Thanks to the doctor’s skill, my recovery was smooth and uneventful. There is some amount of tiredness for a few weeks, but that is normal and natural. Hinduja Hospital provides excellent service, a meticulously clean and hygienic environment, and has an extremely pleasant and efficient staff Today, after nearly three years, I feel fit and fine (I am 64), and am into a lot of productive work. I have not even touched an antacid. I do not take any medicines whatsoever and have no side effects to worry about. Thanks to Dr. Bhandarkar, GERD is history for me.

Mangala Deshmukh