For more than three years, Henry Hanberry of Clyo, Georgia, struggled to eat. He suffered from a rare condition called achalasia. The ring of muscle around the lower part of his esophagus would not relax, so food could not pass from his esophagus to his stomach. Instead, his food would get stuck in his esophagus, forcing him to throw up.
The condition impacted Hanberry’s quality of life. The Air Force veteran and retired Union Camp employee wanted to enjoy his retirement and spend time with his wife, three daughters, and grandchildren. But instead, he felt sick and uncomfortable. Hanberry tried several outpatient procedures to correct the problem, but none of them had a lasting effect. Finally, his physician referred him to Christopher Senkowski, M.D., at Memorial University Medical Center. Senkowski specializes in minimally invasive surgical procedures.
On March 4, 2011, Hanberry underwent a laparoscopic Heller myotomy. During the procedure, Senkowski cut the ring of muscle around Hanberry’s esophagus to allow food to pass through. To perform the surgery laparoscopically, Senkowski made four small incisions for tiny cameras and medical instruments. He used the cameras as a guide while performing the three-and-a-half hour operation.
“They didn't cut me open. Instead they punched holes in me,” laughed Hanberry. “I was happy I didn't have a big cut, because I had never had a major operation before.”
Hanberry spent two nights in the hospital before returning home.
“Everybody at Memorial was very gracious. I couldn't have asked for nicer treatment. The nurses were great,” he said.
He felt good as soon as he returned home. So good, in fact, that he didn't give himself enough time to rest and heal. He tried to do too much in his first week at home, and as a result he felt tired and sore the following week. But within a month, Hanberry said he felt great.
He has not had any problems with achalasia since his surgery. He can finally eat what he wants and enjoy a good meal. Hanberry adds that he would recommend Senkowski to others who might need surgery for a swallowing disorder. There’s no need to suffer if the problem can be corrected with a minimally invasive technique.