Swallowing 101: Achalasia

“Asphinctersayswhat?”

This classic Wayne’s World quote is synonymous with tricking someone into saying that they’re A sphincter, but what you may not know is that the human body contains many, many sphincters. One of which, betrayed me and completely deprived my body of all nutrients and fluids.

Hey there! My name’s Kelsey, I’ve seen Wayne’s World countless times, and I have Achalasia.

 
 

I’ve always been a relatively small human (thanks to genetics), who LOVES food, and could keep up with her brothers at any buffet. That was up until 2015, when an auto-immune disease started to attack the nerves in my esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter. As time progressed, I found it more difficult to swallow food to the point where it would become backed up in my esophagus, and I would find myself involuntarily regurgitating (sometimes in my sleep). No matter what type of food or beverage I ingested (solid or liquid), it would often feel “stuck” and kept coming back up.

I was dehydrated, starving, and had lost several pounds, yet no one—not even my doctor—knew why. After months of blood work and different tests (manometries, endoscopies, barium swallow, etc.) I was finally diagnosed with a rare disease called Achalasia when a specialist noticed that my esophagus had developed a “bird’s beak” (had closed off completely where it attaches to my stomach). I was eventually admitted into the VG Hospital here in Halifax, where (after weeks of IV nutrients) I underwent a lengthy Heller Myotomy procedure to open my lower esophageal sphincter, and finally allow food and fluids through to my stomach once more.

 There’s no cure for Achalasia, and every case is different, but there are various methods to help make life a little easier. I consider myself very lucky that I’m now able to “eat” again but require lots of fluids to help push everything down/avoid that “stuck” feeling. I guess you could say, compared to where I was a couple years ago, things are now pretty “Excellent”.

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