Long Awaited Relief For Kayla

Kayla Wilson began experiencing symptoms of GERD as a child. At 24, she’s finally free.

When Kayla looks back on 2016, she’ll remember the year for two major milestones in her life: she earned her MBA, and finally conquered GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, which had troubled her since she was a child.

“I was nine or 10 years old when it first started. I started having problems at mealtime – a lot of gas and acid in my throat,” says Kayla. “By the time I was 15 or 16, I had severe acid reflux.”

Kayla’s symptoms were painful and often frightening. Nearly anything she consumed, even soup or water, failed to go down completely. This left the sensation that a hard ball was lodged in her esophagus, or food pipe, just below her throat.\

“I was so scared. It would take up to a minute for that feeling to pass,” recalls Kayla. “By the time I was 18, it was happening during every meal.”

Seeking Solutions

Kayla was referred to a gastroenterologist, a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the digestive system. Tests confirmed that she suffered from severe acid reflux, which had already created painful ulcers in the lining of her esophagus. She was prescribed medication twice a day, which relieved some, but not all of her symptoms.

“I followed the lifestyle recommendations of my doctor,” says Kayla. “I ate a healthy diet and maintained a healthy weight. I exercised regularly. I used extra pillows and never laid down after eating. It wasn’t enough. I just lived with my symptoms.”

In 2015, she visited her primary care physician who noted that her current medication could cause bone loss if taken over an extended period of time – a serious concern for a woman in her early 20s. Hoping to take her off of the medication, Kayla’s doctor referred her to gastroenterologist Babak Firoozi, M.D., who immediately referred her to Atif Iqbal, M.D., medical director of the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center.

Cause And Effect

Dr. Iqbal, a board-certified and fellowship-trained surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive bariatric procedures and digestive disorder surgery, explained exactly what GERD was and the impact it had on her life.

“GERD is most often caused by a malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter, or LES,” explains Dr. Iqbal. “The LES is a circular bundle of muscles that’s supposed to allow food and liquid to flow one way, which is from the esophagus into the stomach. When the LES is weak, or doesn’t close completely, caustic stomach acid and partially digested food flow backward into the esophagus.”

When this happens, most patients experience a burning sensation ranging from mild discomfort to chest pain so severe that it can sometimes be mistaken for a heart attack. Other symptoms may include chronic bad breath, nausea, difficulty or pain when swallowing, and coughing.

Left untreated, GERD can damage the sensitive lining of the esophagus and create serious complications, including chronic inflammation, esophageal ulcers, narrowing of the esophagus, and even cancer of the esophagus or larynx.

Sophisticated Care

Patients don’t need to live with pain when it comes to digestive disorders. At the Digestive Care Center at Orange Coast Medical Center, specialists provide patients with prompt diagnoses and advanced treatment options.

For Kayla, surgery was the best solution.

“Dr. Iqbal really opened my eyes,” she says. “For the first time, I realized that my problem could be completely eliminated in a minimally invasive way.”

With state-of-the-art robotic-assisted surgery, Dr. Iqbal performed the Nissen fundoplication procedure with enhanced visualization, dexterity, precision and control. Manipulating the robot’s hands and fingers as extensions of his own, Dr. Iqbal was able to easily access the problematic tissue. He lent support to Kayla’s malfunctioning LES by wrapping the upper curve of her stomach around the base of her esophagus. Just five tiny incisions and one overnight stay in the hospital later, Kayla began her journey to living GERD-free.

“We offer many non-surgical and surgical options for our patients. Nissen fundoplication is just one of them, and it has a long track record of success,” says Dr. Iqbal. “It’s minimally invasive and resolves reflux in more than 90 percent of patients.”

Kayla adds, “Within three weeks, I felt significantly different upon eating and drinking. I’ve had GERD symptoms as long as I could remember. Now, I’m off all medication and I feel great!”

For more information, please visit our Digestive Care Site, or call (714) 378-7664 to speak to the Digestive Care Center staff about a consultation.