Jennifer Bahm - Crystal, MI
"I'm not taking any antacids now...I haven't had any acid reflux."
A New Procedure Lets Her Live Without Heartburn
Jennifer Bahm's life is devoted to her family. The 34-year-old resident of Crystal is a stay-at-home mother of two. Lately, she has been busy working with her husband and kids to start a small hobby farm.
Ever since her first pregnancy, Jennifer had a persistent problem that plagued her, she suffered from acid reflux. As time went on, the problem only got worse.
Jennifer tried everything she could to get her heartburn under control. She tried several antacid medications, switching from one to another over-the-counter product to find relief. One by one, each medication she tried eventually stopped working for her. "It didn't matter what I did, there was always acid," she says.
It was Jennifer's dentist who first recognized just how serious her condition was. During a routine dental cleaning, the dentist noticed wear on Jennifer's teeth from constant acid exposure.
With this noticeable damage, Jennifer knew she needed to do something. She asked her primary care doctor for advice, who referred her to General Surgeon Jeffrey Bonacci, M.D., who specializes in stomach and digestive tract procedures.
Dr. Bonacci ran a few tests to assess Jennifer's situation. She underwent a scope examination, where a tube was inserted down her throat to view her stomach and esophagus. These tests revealed a significant amount of damage in Jennifer's throat – wear and tear on the inside of her esophagus from the stomach acid.
But Dr. Bonacci was able to offer Jennifer hope using a new medical device, referred to as the LINX® Reflux Management System, which had recently been developed for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and persistent heartburn. It consists of a stretchable ring of titanium magnets that is placed around the base of the esophagus, right where it enters the stomach. The LINX stretches to allow food to pass through when swallowed, but tightens to prevent stomach acid from escaping upward.
Jennifer knew right away that she wanted the procedure. "I just liked the idea that I wouldn't have to take meds," she says. Dr. Bonacci was already planning to do a corrective surgery for a hiatal hernia that Jennifer had, so while he was operating, he could do the LINX procedure at the same time.
On April 11, 2019, Jennifer became the first patient to have the LINX system implanted at MyMichigan Medical Center Alma. The procedure was performed laparoscopically with only tiny incisions made. Jennifer got through the procedure and on her way to healing quickly and smoothly. Her attentive care team even encouraged her to eat a little once she woke up from the anesthesia.
It took Jennifer about six weeks to fully recover from the LINX procedure. During this time, she was instructed to eat about once an hour to stretch the LINX so the scar tissue would form correctly. At first, she had to avoid foods that were difficult to digest, such as bread and meat. The care team at MyMichigan Medical Center Alma taught her how to take small bites and chew thoroughly before swallowing, to go easy on her stomach while she recovered.
At her six week follow-up visit, Jennifer was given the all-clear. Her stomach and the incision sites had healed up nicely, and she no longer needed to eat every hour. She also had all food restrictions lifted, and can now eat anything she wants.
Jennifer was concerned about having metal in her body and was afraid it would restrict her from certain scans and machinery. That concern was quickly laid to rest as the LINX is perfectly fine for specific types of MRI scans, should she ever end up needing to have one in the future. She also reports having no problems going through the metal detector at security during a recent trip to Michigan's Adventure.
The best part of everything is the relief from the constant heartburn. "I'm not taking any antacids now," she says. "I haven't had any acid reflux; it's been really good."
This newfound comfort will no doubt be a great benefit to Jennifer as she and her family turn their hobby farm idea into a reality. "I'm really happy with the results," she says.
Those who would like additional information about the LINX Reflux Management System may visit www.mymichigan.org/linx or call (989) 463-6699.