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Full Update after my Surgery for Achalasia

Well, yesterday I saw the doctor for my follow up appointment. Unfortunately, he told me I could come back to work today. 😉 No, in truth, the only reason he let me come back was because I have a desk job, otherwise I’d have been off longer.

He said it looked like everything was going well. The fact that food isn’t getting stuck like before proves that. They didn’t get all the twisted part of my esophagus out because that would have taken too much, but they got enough to help for now–including taking care of the constriction.

Of course, there was nothing they could do to get the muscle function back in my esophagus, but I knew that going into the surgery—which is why I will have to have the entire thing removed eventually and a new one built out of my stomach. It’s still hard to swallow at times because of this, but again, there’s nothing that can be done.

I’m on a restricted diet for two more weeks then I can slowly start trying other foods. It will just be hit and miss to see what I can and can’t swallow. Only lost about twelve pounds through all this. I still need to lose about sixty more—in case I didn’t mention it before, I’m one of the few people with achalasia that is overweight and not malnourished.

I’ll be on some medications for a while and then I can see if I can stop them or if I may need them for the rest of my life. It’s a slow process. I’m still a little sore at the incisions and inside my chest, but that’s to be expected.

I think that covers everything. If anyone has any questions or comments about the disease and its treatment—with me, yourself, someone you know, or just in general—please ask or share. I can obviously only comment on my experience with treatment, though.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 9, 2013 in General

 

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My Upcoming Surgery for Achalasia

First off, you’ve probably never heard of achalasia. I never did before I got diagnosed. We’ve never heard of it because it is a rare disorder—one with no known cure because they don’t know exactly what causes it. As the doctor told me yesterday, they can only treat the symptoms.

So what is achalasia? In layman’s terms, a severe constricting in the esophagus that makes it very difficult to swallow, coupled with diminished muscle contractions that would normally help move food down. Basically, the food gets stuck down there and is hard to force into the stomach. It takes a lot of water for me to be able to swallow even a few bites of food.

Then, there’s the pain involved with the food getting stuck and trying to force it through. Sometimes my chest hurts so bad I’m sure it feels like a heart attack would. It radiates into my arms, makes them numb. It’s really scary sometimes, especially since pain medicine barely takes the edge off.

There’s a heck of a lot more I could tell you, but unless you’re someone with achalasia, you probably don’t care about all the details. But if you want any more information, here is a link to what the U.S. National Library of Medicine says about achalasia.

I think a few pics might be beneficial in explaining, too. You know what they say about pictures and a thousand words, and I doubt you care to read a thousand words on this disorder.

Achalasia%20copy

Barium Swallow

This is a barium swallow pic I found on the internet. Notice that bend at the bottom of the esophagus and how it constricts before going into the stomach. Also notice how the liquid, which is very thin, is backed up into the esophagus and not making it into the stomach much. Needless to say, it’s not supposed to look like that. Mine is somewhat worse than that because I have two bends. It goes one way then back the other before coming to a point—or bird beak, as the doctor called it—where it meets the stomach. And mine backs up the same way. Imagine drinking something the consistency of chocolate milk and having it not be able to pass through.

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Achalasia Constriction

This is an illustration I found on the internet that gives you a different way to look at the constriction. Imagine how painful it is to try getting food down through that.

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Botox Injection

Yet another pic from the interntet. This shows them doing botox injections to help relax the constriction. I had this done four times, but it really didn’t help much, and in the end, it just made it harder to swallow.

I’ve also had a balloon dilation to open it up some, but I only had a few weeks of relief from that.

So, after three years of dealing with this—that’s it; I’ve only had this for three years—it has progressed to the point that if I wait any longer for the surgery, I will be at end-stage and need to have my entire esophagus removed and they would make a new one out of my stomach.

The surgery I am having is far less involved than that. They are going to cut the muscles to help relax it, plus they will be taking out a small portion of my esophagus: that part at the bottom that is all twisted and comes to a point.

I’ll be on a liquid diet for four days prior to the surgery and for a week or so after. Then I can slowly start to add soft foods and build up from there. I’ll have to be off work for a few weeks, but it will be about a month more recovery time after that.

Now here’s the thing; this surgery is not the end. I will still need the complete esophagus removal in the future. It has progressed so far that this is just a temporary fix. And not only that, but this will only take care of the constriction problem. Nothing can ever bring back the muscle function. So while food won’t stick down there anymore, my esophagus still won’t push it down like it should.

I am going to one of the top surgeons in the world for this. When my doctor referred me to him, he said this surgeon would be the one to operate on the President if he ever needed this surgery. I know I’m in good hands and I’m not worried much at all. I’m just looking forward to the relief this will hopefully bring.

Like any surgery, there are risks—and no guarantees—but I think it will all work out okay.

I tried to cover everything, but I probably missed something. Does anyone have any questions? Anyone want to share their experiences with achalasia or any other esophageal problems?

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 5, 2012 in General

 

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