During my senior year of high school, somewhere in the messy middle of my struggle with GERD, the acid that was creeping its way up my esophagus burnt my throat to a point where I could barely talk. Even on a good day my voice sounded like that old woman in the anti-smoking commercial, gargling a warning through the hole in her throat about the effects of smoking. My peers must have developed the impression that I seriously needed to lay off the cigs. But the smoker’s voice was just the icing on the cake. I had been isolated into weirdness by my classmates long ago, between my unexpected vomiting episodes, seemingly strange eating habits, and my complete inability to socialize normally through the pain and discomfort that was severe GERD.
GERD has developed a reputation for being a very minor and simple-to-solve disease. In fact, it can be a very painful, humiliating, and ultimately life-altering illness. For me, and many others, my undiagnosed and untreated GERD began to destroy my throat and esophagus, eventually leaving me with a diffuse esophageal spasm and a gastric prolapse. These conditions combined prevented my esophageal sphincter from being able to keep anything that entered my stomach from coming right back up into my mouth and sometimes uncontrollably into my hands and onto my shirt.
My journey with GERD began at age nine and only ended just 18 months ago, shortly following my 21st birthday. That is when I met the great Dr. Chang, who conducted a procedure called Stretta. Stretta Therapy almost instantaneously stopped my daily uncontrollable vomit spells for good and gave me my life back. Today while I still face the daily struggle to keep my Celiac Disease and autoimmune inflammatory issues in check, my GERD is under incredible control. As long as I take my Pantoprazole twice a day and choose foods that are GERD-friendly, I no longer experience the chronic regurgitative vomit that once left me socially isolated.
I chose to share my story as part of GERD Awareness Week not for your sympathy, but rather in an effort to educate people on the realities of more severe, untreated GERD. I hope this can convey to those family members and friends of GERD sufferers, the kind of isolation their loved one may be facing so they can help to properly support them. Finally, I want to urge those suffering with GERD, or symptoms they believe may be signs of GERD, to see a doctor and ask if Stretta might be the solution for them. Everyone deserves to find a path back to a happy, healthy life in which GERD is only an illness you have, not who you are.