Michael Mead’s life was turned upside down for 26 years by a relatively common condition. He tells Neil Hudson how he found a cure
Michael, 60, from Barnsley, suffers from acid reflux, a condition which affects over 40,000 people in the UK of all ages, although his specific condition, known as GORD (Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease), is classed as being chronic.
Now, however, thanks to a small magnetic bracelet which has been installed around his oesophagus, Michael is now symptom free.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, the former service engineer, said: “It has been a miracle for me, I cannot tell you how much it changed my life. The day after the operation, I noticed a difference.”
Michael explained he began to suffer after he took on a job which meant he was eating late at night. His condition worsened in 1990 to the point where he was unable to lay down to go to sleep.
To alleviate his symptoms, he began by propping himself up on pillows, eventually spent over £1,000 on a bed with a raised headrest. After one night of excruciating pain, he went to hospital, where he was diagnosed with GORD and prescribed something called proton pump inhibiting medication (PPIs).
However, he puts his ‘miracle cure’ down to a friend, who was looking for help on the internet on his behalf.
“A good friend of mine was looking for a cure and he came across this treatment and said, ‘Now it’s over to you’.”
However, initially, Michael found the procedure was not sanctioned by NICE, the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence, which authorises treatment plans on the NHS. His initial bid for funding for the procedure was turned down.
However, when he made a bid at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, he was eventually successful.
It meant he could be fitted with a LINX® Reflux Management System – a magnetic device that augments the weak lower oesophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle at the junction of the oesophagus and stomach. The implant is a small ring of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores. While still allowing food to pass into the stomach when a person swallows, it prevented acid coming back up.
Michael, who had the operation about nine weeks ago, said: “I was at the stage where I could not eat or drinking anything after about 6pm. I certainly couldn’t eat spicy food or drink alcohol, because of the affect it would have on me.
“I think I spent about three years on anti-acid tablets but the symptoms just returned. It did affect me in a big way because I felt like I couldn’t go out with friends any more, if I ever ate something with garlic in, I would spent the night in agony.
“For me, this has been an absolute miracle. I’m very grateful to have had funding for the procedure and I just hope other people can benefit from this.”
The way the LINX® Reflux Management System works is when a person swallows, the magnetic bond temporarily breaks to allow food and drink to pass normally, but then the magnets close afterwards to restore the body’s natural barrier to the reflux of acid and bile.
Traditionally, sufferers of GORD are initially prescribed PPI medication. drugs which work by interacting with acids made in the stomach lining. If the medication does not work, the traditional next step is a surgical procedure called a fundoplication, a complex procedure which involves wrapping the top of the stomach around the bottom of the oesophagus with a recovery period that could be as long as six weeks.
By comparison, the procedure Michael had is relatively non-invasive and has a quicker recovery time.
Michael went on: “I had the LINX surgery nine weeks ago and I can honestly say it is the best decision I have ever made. I am so pleased that I waited for the funding.
“My only wish is that it had been available to me in 1991, so I wouldn’t have had to sleep sitting up for 26 years. I can now sleep in a position that is comfortable for my back – I suffer with a sciatic nerve problem and sitting up or lying very flat can aggravate it.
“I can now sleep soundly at night with no reflux symptoms whatsoever and I have even come off the PPI medication.
“LINX has been amazing for me. I can now eat in the evening, enjoy fish and chips and curries and I am very much looking forward to all those delicious dishes with garlic in them. I cannot thank the doctors and staff involved enough – this procedure has been a life changer for me.”
Abeezer Sarela is a consultant surgeon who specialises in upper gastrointestinal surgery and the person who fitted the LINX for Michael at St. James’s University Hospital, part of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
He said he was pleased the way the procedure had turned out.
“Michael had tried incredibly hard to reduce his symptoms by changing his lifestyle but, unfortunately, as is the case with some people, he continued to have symptoms.
“Other than continuing with his high dose of PPI medication, his options were limited to surgical procedures.
“The fundoplication procedure, which is traditional in cases such as Michael’s, carries the risk of side effects and is essentially major surgery.
“Being able to offer Michael a minimally invasive alternative in LINX was fantastic, and we are absolutely delighted that he is completely symptom-free just nine weeks after the procedure.”
According to a NICE report in 2011, over 40,000 people in the UK suffer from some form of acid reflux
In 2014, a paper titled ‘Safety analysis of first 1,000 patients treated with magnetic sphincter augmentation for gastroesophageal reflux disease’ published in Diseases of the Esophagus, listed a 0.1 per cent complications during and immediately after surgery for GORD
Visit: www.toraxmedical.co.uk/linx for more information