Patient Story: Anti-Reflux Surgery Cures 30 Years of GERD Symptoms

Patient Kim Brown


In this article:

  • GERD can cause multiple symptoms, including heartburn, acid reflux and vomiting.

  • After suffering for years, a patient at Swedish was advised to have surgery, which resolved her condition.

  • A Swedish physician can evaluate your symptoms and suggest the best course of action.

A patient at Swedish writes about her experience with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD):

I began experiencing heartburn symptoms in my mid-30s and was in my 40s when I first had GERD issues. My symptoms were aggravated greatly with menopause and grew progressively worse as the years went along. By the time I was 55 my reflux was something I dealt with when eating and drinking late at night. If I went to a party and ate rich foods in the evening, I often woke up a few hours after falling asleep with acid shooting up from my stomach and getting trapped in my throat. The acid caused me to have burning and choking spasms that would often last a couple hours until finally, exhausted, I would fall asleep. As long as I restricted my diet I was fine.

By the time I turned 60 my symptoms grew unmanageable. I stopped eating anything that would aggravate my system. The pain was so severe and the symptoms so horrible that I stopped drinking alcohol or eating many of my favorite foods. I am Italian and found I could no longer handle the red sauce used in my favorite recipes. I would cook the holiday meal for my family and barely touch the food. Six months prior to surgery, my husband and I had truly stopped socializing with family and friends.

The past couple of years my reflux symptoms continued to worsen and several times a week I found I was vomiting. I never ate at work as the smallest amount of food would cause me to suffer great heartburn and GERD distress. On several occasions, I attempted to socialize at a work function and ate a small amount of food, and by the time I drove home I would walk in the bathroom and throw up. I worked mornings and had afternoons off so I learned to drink water and my sugar-free beverage while at work and wait until getting home to eat so I could deal with my symptoms in private. My GERD was managed by taking prescriptions and over-the-counter antacids.

In July of 2014 I was scheduled for hand surgery. On my pre-op visit with my hand surgeon, I explained the problems I was having with GERD and acid shooting up into my throat as a possible complication to being put under with anesthesia. He explained how serious these symptoms were and not something that anyone should be expected to live with. He told me that Dr. Ralph Aye at Swedish was able to achieve great success for his patients and that being symptom-free was a possibility. 

During my first visit with Dr. Aye, it was determined that I would undergo tests to determine exactly what was occurring within my digestive system. Shortly before the surgery Dr. Aye looked at me and told me that I could expect great results. He stated that this procedure would change my life and that I could hope to be symptom-free. 

My surgery was 10 weeks ago. I have had no heartburn or GERD symptoms since surgery which still amazes me. These same issues had plagued my mother for years. I was her caregiver and took her to appointments and shared her discouragement as she received no validation or help from her primary care physician. It was as if her symptoms were all in her head.

My daughter is 32 years old and is now developing the initial symptoms of heartburn. Should her symptoms worsen over the years as mine did, we feel very fortunate to know there is somewhere to go for treatment and that she will not have to suffer the horrible symptoms of reflux and GERD that her mother and grandmother experienced. Thank you, Dr. Aye!

Find a doctor

If you have questions about GERD, contact the Swedish Digestive Health Institute. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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About the Author

The Swedish Digestive Health Team is committed to helping you navigate the complexities of the organs and their many functions to find the right treatment for your unique digestive condition.

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