Our Patients Say it Best

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Make Food Fun Again - Michael Aldrich


Mar, 2020

Physicians: Seth Miller, MD

Since the beginning of time, food has represented so much more than simply a means of survival. Sharing a meal together helps connect people and creates traditions passed down through generations.

So, what happens when eating, or even drinking water, is no longer something you enjoy?

This was the case for 33-year-old Cassopolis resident, Michael Aldrich, who suffered from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) nearly his whole life. The disease occurs when our bodies cannot prevent stomach acid from washing up into the esophagus like it normally should. Reflux is often associated with typical heartburn symptoms such as pain under the rib cage, brackish water taste in the mouth, and recurrent sore throats.

“My GERD became pretty debilitating,” said Michael. “I was waking up multiple times during the night with a reflux episode. It affected my performance at work and the ability to be present with my family. I got to the point where I was skipping dinner just so I could sleep at night.”

Over the years Michael tried many lifestyle changes to relieve his symptoms including working out and adjusting his diet. He was also taking up to four pills of Nexium–a type of proton pump inhibitor (PPI)–each day, which can have adverse side effects if used long term.

“I knew I didn’t want the rest of my life to look like this,” said Michael.

When Michael’s wife, Stephanie, told him about a new incisionless surgery for chronic heartburn and reflux available at Spectrum Health Lakeland, he didn’t waste any time scheduling an appointment. Michael met with general surgeon, Seth Miller, MD, who explained more about the Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF®) procedure which reconstructs the body's natural barrier to reflux without an incision.  

“Reflux medications, like PPIs, can help relieve patients' heartburn symptoms but don't solve the underlying anatomical problems or prevent further disease progression,” said Dr. Miller. “Because the TIF procedure is incisionless and performed through the mouth with an endoscope, there is reduced pain, shorter recovery, and no visible scar.”

Prior to surgery Michael underwent a series of tests, including an endoscopy and CT scan, to ensure he was a good candidate for the procedure. The tests revealed Michael also had a hiatal hernia, a condition that occurs when the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm which can often contribute to GERD symptoms.

Dr. Miller recommended a hybrid surgery which would allow him to repair the hernia using minimally invasive techniques and perform the TIF procedure, which repairs the damaged stomach valve through the mouth.

“Dr. Miller and his team were all very helpful throughout the process and did a great job explaining everything to my wife and me,” said Michael.

After a successful surgery Michael spent the night at Lakeland Hospital Niles before returning home. Due to the physical demands of his job, he needed to wait a few weeks before returning to work. His diet was also limited to liquids and soft foods because of the swelling in his esophagus.

All this was a small price to pay for the results he saw almost instantly.

“I am finally able to sleep through the night again―well, as much as you can with two small children,” he joked.

In the four months since the surgery, Michael hasn’t had a single reflux episode. He’s finally able to enjoy Mexican food again and looks forward to going out to dinner with his family.

“This procedure has been life changing,” said Michael. “I would recommend it to anyone struggling with GERD.”

If you, or someone you know, suffers from heartburn or acid reflux more than two times per week, it's time to seek help. To learn more about the TIF procedure, call 269.684.6696 or request a consultation.


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