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Our Patients Say it Best

Your friends and neighbors from throughout southwest Michigan and beyond share their experiences at Spectrum Health Lakeland. Do you have a story to share? Click on the "What's Your Story" button and complete the form. 

Apr 1, 2021 Reporting from Niles, MI
A brand-new man - Kevin Hines
Apr 1, 2021
Watching the clock knowing you can’t eat dinner after a certain time. Spending countless nights sleeping in a recliner because you can’t lay flat in bed. Scouring the menu at a restaurant to find something you can eat that won’t cause another acid re

A brand-new man - Kevin Hines

SpectrumHealth Lakeland

A brand-new man - Kevin Hines

Apr, 2021

Physicians: Seth Miller, MDEugene Zolotarevsky, MD

Watching the clock knowing you can’t eat dinner after a certain time. Spending countless nights sleeping in a recliner because you can’t lay flat in bed. Scouring the menu at a restaurant to find something you can eat that won’t cause another acid reflux episode.

For the past 50 years, this was the reality for 71-year-old Berrien Springs resident, Kevin Hines. While in his twenties, Kevin began suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The digestive disorder occurs when acidic stomach juices, or food and fluids, back up from the stomach into the esophagus. The resulting symptoms include belching, heartburn, and discomfort in the upper abdomen.  

“I had tried every over the counter solution out there,” said Kevin. “I knew what my triggers were and made changes to my lifestyle but would still find myself waking out of dead sleep, coughing and experiencing a terrible burning sensation in my throat that would keep me up half the night. Early on, there wasn’t really a fix for the problem, so I learned to just live with it.”

Finding answers

Soon after moving to Berrien Springs, Kevin learned of the Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF®) procedure offered by Lakeland General Surgery. Performed through the mouth with an endoscope, the TIF procedure rebuilds the valve between the stomach and esophagus, restoring the natural anti-reflux barrier to prevent GERD. Kevin scheduled an initial appointment with general surgeon, Seth Miller, MD, in hopes of finally discovering a solution.

“Dr. Miller is one of the best doctors I’ve ever had,” said Kevin. “He was genuinely concerned about me and took the time to listen. He made sure to answer all of my questions and even drew pictures to make it easier for me to understand.”

As a first step in the process, Kevin underwent several tests to help Dr. Miller better understand his condition and determine if he was a candidate for the TIF procedure. The results revealed some shocking news. Kevin was suffering from Barrett's esophagus.

Because of the many years of repeated exposure to stomach acid, the cells in his esophagus had begun to change to tissue that resembled the lining of the intestine. If not treated, it could develop into esophageal cancer. Dr. Miller made a referral to Spectrum Health gastroenterologist, Eugene Zolotarevsky, MD, who specialized in the disease.

A team approach

“I felt confident in Dr. Miller’s decision to send me to someone who had more experience treating my specific condition,” said Kevin. “I knew he had my best interests in mind and wanted to make sure I received the care I needed.”

For the next few months, Kevin traveled to Grand Rapids to undergo treatment at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital. Over the course of several procedures, Dr. Zolotarevsky removed the abnormal tissue and cells in Kevin’s esophagus using heat from radiofrequency waves. Kevin then returned to Dr. Miller to undergo surgery which would fix the problem once and for all.

Tests revealed Kevin also suffered from a hiatal hernia, or a hole in the diaphragm which allows the esophagus to poke down into the abdominal cavity. This is common in people who suffer from GERD. Dr. Miller planned to perform a hybrid surgery which would repair the hernia using the da Vinci® Xi™ surgical system and rebuild the stomach valve through the esophagus with the TIF procedure at the same time.

While performing the surgery, Dr. Miller discovered the hole in Kevin’s diaphragm was much larger than initially expected. After repairing the hernia, he felt confident Kevin would find the relief he needed. He wouldn’t need to undergo the TIF procedure after all.

“I trusted Dr. Miller’s decision 100% and valued his transparency with me throughout the entire process,” said Kevin. “Since the hernia surgery, I no longer experience the constant bloating and burping sensation after I eat. I’m finally able to sleep through the night without any reflux.”

Because the procedure was performed using the da Vinci robot, Kevin only had to stay for one night in the hospital and experienced minimal pain and scarring.

“There was no real pain after the surgery and I was up and walking the next day,” said Kevin. “I had to ease back into eating normal foods to allow the hernia repair time to heal, but now I can eat pretty much anything I want. I feel like a brand-new man–I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Hernias are serious and do not fix themselves. If not treated, a hernia can get larger and lead to serious health complications. Find a surgeon near you. To request a consultation, click here


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