POEM Procedure Changing Lives


For Sandra Callis, there’s nothing quite
like the taste of a cheeseburger. But until just a couple of months ago, this
simple meal wasn’t possible. It would just get stuck. The last nine months we’re horrible because
I was throwing up when I ate. For more than a decade Sandra thought she
had acid reflux. And I took medicine for that for a long time. But over time, Sandra’s condition got worse
and worse and what she could eat got less and less. That is until she heard something on the radio
that caught her attention. I called my doctor and when he checked me
he said, ‘I got to send you to the specialist.’ It turned out that Sandra didn’t have acid
reflux after all. She had a disease called achalasia, where
the muscle between the esophagus and stomach is too tight and won’t let food go through. I was choking. Sandra was sent to doctors Carlos Anciano
and Jim Speicher of East Carolina University and Vidant Health, where they performed a
relatively new achalasia procedure called a peroral endoscopic myotomy or POEM for short. Unlike other procedures that can go through
the abdominal wall, the POEM procedure is less invasive. It uses an endoscope and goes in through the
patient’s mouth and makes an incision on the inside of the esophagus. The surgeon is then able to cut the affected
muscle to loosen it up so that food can once again move through. It allows for less pain for the patient; shorter
recovery times. Within two weeks Sandra was able to eat solid
foods again. And you’ll probably guess what her first
meal was. I had a cheeseburger. It sure was good. I was fine. Thanks to their expertise with the POEM procedure,
Speicher and Anciano are seeing patients from all North Carolina and even out of state come
to ECU and Vidant to get treated. That was nice to be an hour away. And now for Sandra, eating has become a pleasure
again. Now I get to pick dinner. I don’t have to worry about where are we
going, what am I going to eat? Something as simple as that, it turns out
quite fulfilling in our practice.

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