My experience with GERD, frequent heartburn and acid reflux disease
By Jim Notto
I was 15 years old the first time I remember feeling the burn of gastric juices racing up my throat.
The acidic liquid from my stomach rose quickly into my esophagus, causing me to gasp. In a moment it filled my mouth and exited from my nostrils. I reflexively gasped, and as I did gastric juices descended into my airway. I fell to my knees coughing and choking. Tears welled in my eyes and I tried to scream, but only a hoarse screech managed to escape my lips. I was with friends who quickly rushed over to my side to see what was wrong with me, but I was unable to answer their questions because I could not catch my breath. My mind was racing with fear and my ears rang from the pain. I did not know what was happening to me. I was terrified.
Slowly the pain subsided and my breathing relaxed, though my chest hurt with each breath for the next hour, and my throat was sore for several days. I mentioned the incident to my parents the next day, but I soon felt fine and dismissed the idea of seeing a doctor. Chalk it up to the invincible folly of youth.
This experience would not occur again for several months, though in addition to acid reflux I slowly began to display other tell-tale signs of GERD such as frequent heartburn, and diarrhea. I gradually became accustomed to the symptoms, trying to control the reflux and heartburn with antacids, and developing the belief that I had a “weak” constitution and that life was just going to be like this from now on. It would be several years before I was finally diagnosed as having GERD.
Throughout those next several years the symptoms would come and go, gradually becoming more intense and more frequent. During those times when the disease would flare up I would struggle to control it by use of over-the-counter medications, dietary restraint, or force of will. Often these efforts seemed to work, but relief was temporary at best.
Eventually the symptoms persisted, and I had daily flare-ups of the reflux. Even the best antacids would bring only partial relief, and for mere moments at a time. I awoke many nights to the streaming agony of stomach acid in my mouth and nose, sometimes inhaling small amounts of the offending liquid as my sleep was interrupted, causing considerable difficulty breathing.
Ultimately the diagnosis was made that I suffered from GERD. Medication was prescribed life was once again blissful… for a while.