Magnets help put out firefighter’s internal heartburn flames

Come on, baby, quench my fire

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Michael Hardesty is one of an estimated seven million Americans with some form of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Michael Hardesty fights fires for a living. That’s why he wanted to battle the fire that raged inside him.

Hardesty, a 29-year-old firefighter in Sycamore, Ill. is one of an estimated seven million Americans with some form of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic disorder that allows stomach acid to back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn and, over time, damaging tissue inside the esophagus.

He likened the symptoms to something that is probably akin to “drinking battery acid.”

“I realized that severe heartburn, if left untreated, could lead to esophageal cancer. Two of my uncles died from esophageal cancer,” Hardesty said.

To find help in putting out his own internal flames, Hardesty turned to the Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) Reflux Center, where experts there are “firefighters,” in every sense.

Hardesty first met with Willis Parsons, M.D., medical director of the NCH Gastroenterology Center, who performed diagnostic tests, including manometry, in which a pressure-sensitive examination tube is passed through the patient’s nose and into his esophagus and stomach. The tests help a physician determine the efficiency at which the esophagus moves liquid and food into the stomach and the health of the muscular valve separating the esophagus from the stomach.

Diagnosing Hardesty’s condition as GERD, Dr. Parsons referred him to NCH thoracic surgeon, Gary Chmielewski, M.D., who recommended Hardesty undergo magnetic sphincter augmentation surgery or LINX®. The procedure involves placing a band of magnetic beads around the weak esophageal valve. The force created among the beads strengthens the valve sufficiently to prevent acid reflux, but still allows the valve to open wide enough for food to pass into the stomach.

“LINX creates a bionic valve, so to speak, and is one of the newer treatments we offer patients at the NCH Reflux Center to rebuild the valve at the bottom of the esophagus and get them off ongoing, traditional medications,” Dr. Parsons said. Other treatments include the minimally invasive outpatient procedure, transoral incisionless fundoplication or TIF, which physicians can perform without making abdominal incisions, using a device passed into the stomach through a patient’s mouth.

Hardesty went home a few hours after the surgery and could eat solid food, with no change in diet.

How does he spell relief?

Hear Dr. Parsons discuss GERD treatment options available at the NCH Reflux Center:

  • Willis Parsons
  • Gary Chmielewski



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