....and I feel amazing!
April 30th will be one-year since I was wheeled into the OR and had my stomach wrapped around my esophagus in what is commonly known as the Nissen Fundoplication.
Prior to having surgery, I had been on PPI's for over 15 years. At the time of surgery, I was on Protonix 4x's a day and getting little to no relief. I was sleeping sitting up. I would get horrible bouts of reflux from brushing my teeth. Anything I ate or drank would cause me to reflux and would give me incredible heartburn. My pre-surgery endoscopy showed I had 4cm of Barretts dysplasia from the GE junction up the esophagus that wrapped around the entire esophagus.
In surgery, there was a marked amount of inflammation and extracellular ooze around my esophagus (my surgeons words!) that made it difficult to see and work. As such, I had one torn gastric vessel that required two extra ports to repair, and accidental intrusion into my right lung space causing it to collapse. When I woke up, I had a total of 7 surgical ports stitched closed and a chest tube for the collapsed lung.
I spent three days in the hospital, not including the day of the surgery. I LOVE DILAUDID! The magic PCA button they gave me allowed me to self-medicate every 10 minutes. With the exception of one bout of horrible diaphragm spasms as I was walking around the ward, I was in absolutely no pain.
Once home, all the preparation I had done in advance worked wonderfully. I had meal plans worked out and I was never dehydrated or hungry. I forced myself to eat and drink and made sure to keep active. I only used the liquid vicodin for a couple days once I was home. After that I wasn't in any pain at all and was able to take strolls around my house and eventually down the block and back. Six weeks later I was back at work. 3 months later my diet was back to it's pre-operative state (including a beer here and there), albeit in smaller quantities.
I just had my one-year follow up endoscopy and am happy to report that the chronic esophagitis and gastritis has healed. My wrap is fully intact and most importantly, all the Barretts cells have disappeared (confirmed via biopsy). The only annoying residual effect I have from the surgery is that I still can't get out a good, satisfying burp. I have small bubbles escape here and there, but certainly nothing I would consider a burp. Bloating is minimal and if I overeat I definitely experience the "30-minute meal syndrome". In-and-out in 30 minutes. No fun, but it's a lifestyle change at this point and something that one needs to be wary of post-surgery. That said, I'll take any and all of it in exchange for the pain and discomfort I had before surgery.
The recovery process was difficult and long. The key, for me anyway, was to plan ahead and organize myself and my family to be able to assist me in the best possible way so that I wouldn't run into any complications during a time when I wouldn't be able to do much about them. Ask LOTS of questions before-hand and grill your surgeon about their success rate.
In the end, your recovery will only be as successful as you make it. Take it easy and don't rush things. As you heal, let your body drive what you are comfortable doing. ESPECIALLY with your diet. Above all, managing your diet and hydration is the most important piece of the healing process. You HAVE to eat and you HAVE to drink. You'll be more miserable if your body doesn't have the appropriate nourishment to keep healing. Activity is important, too. Get up and go for a walk. Even if it's down the hallway and back three or four times. Do something to stay active. Being sedentary will lengthen your healing time. Give in to the healing process and relax!
Okay, that's about enough of that! Bottom line, I would have this surgery over and over again if it meant I didn't have the horrible pain from GERD/reflux. I haven't taken a single pill since the day before my surgery and I feel amazing. I hope that if you go down the fundoplication path that you have a similar experience.
Be well and take care,
Nissen Fundoplication April 30, 2013
Pain-Free, Reflux-Free, Sleeping on my back!