As a kid growing up, starting at the age of 9 in 1980, I started to get this burning sensation in my chest and throat. I thought it was normal. I remember telling my Dad about it and he gave me Rolaids. Interestingly, he seemed always to have Rolaids on him. Thinking back, he probably suffered from recurring heartburn as well.
I would get heartburn at least twice a week, every week and this continued through my teens. It did not matter what I ate or drank – meat, seafood, salad, even water – the burning sensation would occur. In college, it got to the point that I was taking 20 Rolaids or Tums every day.
Once the new, more powerful drugs to control these symptoms were created, I switched to taking Protonix every couple of days. This lasted for an additional 5 to 6 years. It was about this time that I had had about enough of going through this ongoing discomfort. Keep in mind, I have never been overweight, I am a non-smoker, I am very active and keep reasonably fit.
It is about this time that I met a physician, socially while traveling. Through our various conversations about life, sports, etc. the topic of my heartburn came up. He warned me that having chronic heartburn could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, which, can lead to something called Barrett’s esophagus. It was the first time anyone had brought this to my attention and the related dangers of esophageal cancer. Upon my return home, I went to see a doctor and he recommended that I see a specialist by the name of Dr. Wilson Tsai.
Dr. Tsai concluded following my evaluation, symptoms and an endoscopy that he could alleviate my heartburn by performing a surgical procedure called a Nissen Fundoplication. I didn’t believe what I was hearing, that after 30 years of suffering Dr. Tsai said that he could make the pain stop. I went home to discuss the situation with my wife and she wanted to hear the details from the Doctor. Dr. Tsai paid us a visit at home and I will never forget how clear and concise his explanation of the procedure was. He sat at a children’s table in my kid’s playroom and drew us my anatomy and how the procedure would stop the reflux from happening. We were convinced.
I scheduled my surgery and must say that the whole process was seamless. Certainly there was some soreness following the procedure, this lasted a few days, but nothing terrible. I also lost a little bit of weight due to the special diet that needs to be followed for a couple of weeks, but I consider this a pleasant side effect.
However, what is most important, I recently had my 5-year follow up from the surgery and am delighted to say that I have never had a bout of heartburn or reflux since. Not one. Dr. Tsai has turned my life around. I can eat anything that I want, exercise as I like, play with my children and run my business with zero bouts of heartburn.
I cannot emphasize enough how life changing this procedure has been. Dr. Tsai’s surgical skills, bedside manner and overall demeanor and professionalism is above and beyond any physician that I have ever come across. I would repeat the entire procedure without a second thought. Over the years, I not only consider Dr. Tsai, my physician but a personal friend and cannot thank him enough for what he has done for me.