Every once in a while, the person upstairs gives you a wake-up call. Mine came a few weeks ago.
Looking back, all the signs were there.
I’d been keeping a supply of Tums in my purse for after meals. I could feel a sensation of acid backing up in my throat when I bent down. Burping became a “thing” for me. And sometimes I had trouble swallowing.
My father had acid reflux, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), so it wasn’t too farfetched to think that I had it too, but I never put two and two together and took action.
That’s where the person upstairs comes in.
We had just completed our annual Ultimate Dining Experience for Senior Concerns. Attempting to delight 420 people with food, drinks and an entertaining program brings stress as well as rewards.
I was just beginning to relax later that week when friends invited my husband and me out for dinner. Before their invitation,
I’d planned to make filet mignon that night as a treat, so we decided to share a filet at the restaurant.
My first bite, which was no bigger than the size of the nail on my pinky finger, got stuck going down, so I drank some water. Bad idea. The water came up as I rushed to the ladies’ room, but the steak remained stuck.
I composed myself, went back to the table and tried some more water. Unfortunately, the result was the same.
My husband made our apologies as we packed up the rest of our meal and headed home.
So many folks have asked me why someone did not perform the Heimlich maneuver on me at that time. I could breathe, and I could talk. I just could not swallow— not the steak, not water and not my saliva.
After two hours at home waiting for the steak to release, we headed to the emergency room. In the ER, they tried an injection that would relax my esophagus. It didn’t work.
After eight hours of being unable to swallow, they performed surgery to dislodge the “foreign body” in my esophagus. They gave me general anesthesia, going in through my mouth and down my esophagus.
I woke up in a hospital room to learn there had been a tear in my esophageal lining and the air used during surgery had entered my chest cavity and surrounded my heart and lungs. The doctors were fearful of pneumonia or infection, so I was put on oxygen and a lot of intravenous medications.
I spent six days in the hospital— two of them eating nothing, two eating ice chips, one on clear liquids and one on full liquids. I will be on full liquids for another two weeks to help heal the tear.
It turns out that over time, my GERD had scarred my esophagus and created a zigzag pattern where it connects to my stomach, creating a narrow pathway where the steak got stuck.
I was thrilled to learn that with a bit of a diet change and some medication I can stop the acid reflux and over time heal the scarring on my esophagus.
I am sharing this story because I want those of you with acid reflux symptoms to see your doctor.
I had chalked up my worsening symptoms mostly to getting older and not tolerating food and drink as well as I used to. Not acting resulted in a lifethreatening event for me.
Learn from my mistake and get your symptoms checked out.