Senior Veteran (female)
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: NJ, USA
4 months post Nissen: A Good Choice for Me.
So, I want to write down the whole story about how I had my Nissen Fundoplication.
I've had acid reflux and gastritis since about 2005, but it was controlled by Prilosec and diet for most of that time. Then, in May 2010, things fell apart. My allergies went from a nuisance to a real problem practically overnight, I had the first asthma attack of my life, and my stomach problems were drastically worse.
I soon learned that the allergies, asthma and GERD were feeding into each other, and I couldn't seem to break the cycle. I got on allergy shots and an asthma-control medicine, which helped a little, but the GERD was still very bad. Burning pain aside, I would taste stomach acid for hours every day, and if I caught even a little cold, I'd lose my voice for two or three weeks.
I tried various PPIs, plus Reglan, Domperidone and Carafate. None helped much. So, I went for testing. My endoscopy was near-normal, just gastritis and a few polyps. So was the barium swallow, no evidence of reflux or hiatal hernia. The 48-hour pH monitoring, however, confirmed that I had a lot of reflux, and the gastric emptying study found that my digestive tract moves too slowly. When all the medicines failed, I asked my GI doctor about reflux surgery, and he gave me a referral.
I went to the surgeon that my gastroenterologist recommended and asked questions. I liked the answers.
My surgeon's practice is pretty much all laparoscopic stomach surgery. Each week he does a few Nissens and a few weight-loss surgeries. This is good, it means he has LOTS of experience. We also talked about risks and recovery time. One other thing that surprised me: he said that I probably had a hiatial hernia, even though none of the tests had picked it up.
Before I went through with it, I went back to my family doctor one last time and said, "The surgeon thinks I'm a good candidate, but surgeons like to cut people. What do you think?" We discussed how bad my reflux was, and what I'd done already to try to manage it, and came to the conclusion that it probably was time to try surgery.
I had the surgery on December 20th, 2011, right after I turned 31 years old. I was out for almost two hours, and I stayed in the hospital one night afterwards. The surgeon did find the hiatal hernia he'd predicted, 3 or 4 centimeters in size, and repaired that at the same time.
It wasn't that bad. The first night was rough, pain-wise. (Yes, I was in the hospital, the ONLY complain I have of their care is that they were pretty stingy with the good drugs.) After about 24 hours, though, I barely needed anything for the pain. Bending, twisting, getting up or sitting down, etc weren't fun for the first few days, but it was OK.
They tell you to walk after laparoscopy, and they are definitely right. The gas hurt from my lower abdomen up into my shoulders, and walking around helped. I was walking slowly at first, but I did get up and walk around for a few minutes every day of my recovery, plus longer walks around the block. My whole digestive system felt shocked and just "off" after the surgery, and walking helped get things moving again.
The worst part of recovery by far was the diet. I had 2 weeks of liquids ONLY, then two weeks of purees, then two weeks on a "soft" diet. My ideal weight is about 140, before the surgery I weighed 131, after I dropped down to 123, which was my high school weight. Living on juice, strained broth and milk for two weeks was... very challenging. Also enlightening, I think I understand the word "hunger" a lot better now.
At two months, I was officially recovered, and eating about as well as I had before the surgery. My weight very slowly started to come back up. I had a lot of lower digestive problems around this time, like alternating C and D, with nasty cramps in both phases. Still, I was pleased.
Since the surgery, my reflux is about 90% less. Instead of having two hours of reflux after breakfast, I generally have just a few minutes of symptoms a day. My asthma has improved dramatically. By about 8 weeks, I was glad I did it.
To my surprise, however, things have continued to get better. I'm just this past week or so able to eat real good-sized meals, complete with veggies. I've gained two pounds this month, now I'm up to 128! My gastritis is finally improving a little, too. And my lower stomach is finally starting to forgive me.
I'm still on Prevacid. The doctor said I could start trying to taper off next month. I'm still not at the point where I could, say, eat pizza without regretting it afterwards. Heck, I might always need to take meds and watch what I eat. That would actually be OK, I'm still glad I did it.