Anna Lavinas, 36, from Croydon, struggled with her heartburn symptoms ever since childhood before undergoing surgery
A woman whose enjoyment of life was being ruined by acid reflux which left her unable to swallow food or drink wine has finally been cured after undergoing surgery for a throat gadget that prevents heartburn.
Anna Lavinas, 36, from Croydon, struggled with her heartburn symptoms ever since childhood before undergoing surgery.
Drugs designed to help combat her reflux by reducing the production of acid failed – despite being given double doses of the proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). She was left bloated and unhappy.
Her condition, which saw her lose more than 4st from avoiding certain foods, became so bad that she was stuck at home. She could not enjoy a drink or even eat a meal with her friends.
But an operation to surgically insert a gadget down her throat, funded by the NHS, has had a ‘dramatic’ effect on her life.
Speaking about the operation for the first time, Miss Lavinas told MailOnline: ‘Since having the surgery my life has changed dramatically.
‘Straight away, for the first time in ages I didn’t need to take any PPI medication at all. I’m still taking it slowly, but I can go out to restaurants and it feels amazing.
‘Waking up in the morning I don’t have horrible symptoms, instead I’m happy and ready for the day – I can even look forward to the simple pleasure of having a coffee.
‘My partner used to tease me that I was like a hermit, stuck at home, but now I’m making up for lost time – I can go out more, attend the company socials and even drink wine.
‘We’re going to Mexico to an all-inclusive and I cannot wait. I’m finally getting to do what people normally do – be excited for life.’
When did her condition begin?
Miss Lavinas, a finance executive for a digital media company, was diagnosed with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) as a child.
When she was seven, doctors were forced to put rubber tubing down her throat to rid her of the excess acid that was affecting her.
After several tests, her gastroenterologist said she was a good candidate for LINX surgery – which was developed by two US bio-engineers
Drugs designed to help combat her reflux failed – despite being given double doses of the PPIs. She was left bloated and unhappy
Around three years ago, her condition worsened. It stopped her from drinking any alcohol or coffee – two common triggers of reflux.
Despite making all the recommended changes to her lifestyle, she still suffered from chronic heartburn and indigestion.
Taking the maximum daily dose of PPIs alongside acid blockers proved to have no effect.
Waking up in the morning I don’t have horrible symptoms, instead I’m happy and ready for the day – I can even look forward to the simple pleasure of having a coffee
What are PPIs?
PPIs are a class of drugs that work on the cells that line the stomach, reducing the production of acid.
They work well for some people, reducing symptoms to a manageable level or even stopping them completely.
But others, such as Miss Lavinas, experience major side effects making them either unsuitable or ineffective.
Miss Lavinas encouraged her partner of ten years, whose name is unknown, to go out without her as she was unable to enjoy a drink or meal.
The condition had became so bad that her oesophagus was inflamed and irritated and she could only eat certain foods.
But an operation to surgically insert a gadget down her throat, funded by the NHS, has had a ‘dramatic’ effect on her life
Speaking about the operation for the first time, Miss Lavinas told MailOnline: ‘Since having the surgery my life has changed dramatically’
Miss Lavinas said: ‘I’d only been able to tolerate steamed vegetables when the symptoms finally became so bad that my oesophagus got so inflamed and irritated that I couldn’t even swallow.’
WHAT IS GORD?
Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a common condition, where acid from the stomach leaks up into the oesophagus (gullet).
It usually occurs as a result of the ring of muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus becoming weakened. Read more about the causes of GORD.
GORD causes symptoms such as heartburn and an unpleasant taste in the back of the mouth. It may just be an occasional nuisance for some people, but for others it can be a severe, lifelong problem.
GORD can often be controlled with self-help measures and medication. Occasionally, surgery to correct the problem may be needed.
Source: NHS Choices
It wasn’t until her boss finally sent her to A&E when she was sat at her desk crying in pain that she knew she couldn’t continue the same way.
Doctors at the Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust subsequently put her on a liquid diet for six weeks, but to no avail.
What was the operation?
After several tests, her gastroenterologist said she was a good candidate for LINX surgery – which was developed by two US bio-engineers.
A small flexible band of permanently magnetic titanium beads is inserted through the patient’s abdomen through keyhole surgery and placed around the lower oesophagus.
The magnetism pulls the beads together sufficiently strongly to keep the sphincter muscle closed and prevent acid rising up.
But the beads can be also pushed apart when swallowing to allow food to descend into the digestive tract.
Health watchdogs have recommended it as a treatment option for GORD since 2012, however, it says not much is known about its long-term effects.
Lucky to have a supportive partner
Miss Lavinas added: ‘I’m lucky to have such a supportive partner, but the fact that I could never go out for dinner with him was disappointing.
‘And we couldn’t plan a holiday, because one of my biggest fears had been how my GORD might be aggravated.
‘I felt like I had nothing to look forward to. When you’re suffering from GORD, you can’t socialise, you can’t exercise, and it’s life-limiting.
‘Working for a media company should be fun, but I was missing out on events because I was so unwell and couldn’t join in.’
Her condition, which saw her lose more than 4st from avoiding certain foods, became so bad that she was stuck at home. She could not enjoy a drink or even eat a meal with her friends