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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

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No More Heartburn 20 Minutes

In October 2004, Cindi Fusco, now 45, started to develop a series of bewildering symptoms. Just about anything she ate or drank triggered a violent coughing spell. So did lying down, making it hard for her to sleep. And then she'd wake up with little or no voice. "Not being able to talk was a huge problem," says Fusco. "My husband and I run an insurance agency. I earn my living on the phone."

Fusco's family life was suffering too. Once an enthusiastic hostess, she no longer had the energy to entertain in her Haslet, TX, home. To get through her son's August 2005 wedding without coughing, she ate literally nothing all day. Most upsetting, her 7-year-old daughter, Mariah, was growing very anxious about her mom.

Nearly a year after Fusco's symptoms appeared and after dozens of medical tests, a lung specialist finally figured out that she had gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The diagnosis had been tricky because the one symptom Fusco didn't have was heartburn. Treatment proved just as tricky: A change in diet (giving up all of her favorite Italian dishes) didn't help, nor did medication. At that point, Fusco's doctor advised surgery — the traditional operation, which would mean general anesthesia, several days in the hospital, and a long recovery period.

Fusco wondered if that was her only option. Her mother happened to be watching the news one night and saw a doctor from nearby Baylor medical school talking about the new procedure for GERD using the Plicator, a stapling device that creates a pleat to tighten the weak valve.

On December 2, 2005, Fusco underwent the 20-minute procedure at Baylor. Afterward, she had a slightly sore throat (the device is inserted through the throat) but otherwise felt fine. For 48 hours she ate just soft foods; then, taking her doctor at his word that she could eat "anything she wanted," a week later she invited 17 guests and cooked up one of her feasts. "There I was, eating baked ziti, a chocolate dessert, even drinking red wine, and I didn't cough at all," Fusco says. "Everyone was laughing and having a good time, and I thought, This is what I've been waiting for. "



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