Barrett's is a Bastard

The biggest boost to a soldiers morale is hearing your name at 'mail call!' I should say, given the imperious advance of technology, 'in my day, the biggest boost..........' That is, right up until you heard the oldest and most worn line in the book, 'Crumble! Give this to McTavish.' Try it with the kids at Christmas; it is the joke that keeps on giving. I remember one day my heart soared when my name was called out and I walked back to my billet with a letter in hand from my girlfriend of the moment who I hadn't seen for some months. While it wasn't the most upbeat letter it wasn't the one every man jack hates to receive. In it, she detailed with great care, a list of ailments that would befall me should I continue to smoke. It was a long list although she ended by pointing out that it wasn't exhaustive. You're damn right it wasn't. She didn't mention bloody Barrett's...

So, I've got Barrett's Oesophagus, (I wish he'd take it back). While smoking isn't exactly the cause it almost certainly contributes to the condition and at best, we can say that smoking is kind of unhelpful here. So what is it? Simply put, BO is a condition where the sphincter like valve between the oesophagus and stomach loses it's elasticity allowing acid from the stomach to splash up and burn the lower end of the oesophagus. Doesn't sound good does it? It isn't. The area that becomes damaged provides a fertile breeding ground for a Defon 1 really nasty cancer. That's why I have the joy of having a routine two yearly check which is better than not having a two yearly check. Right up until the point when they call and say, 'hmmmmm, could you pop back; we would like to have another look.' 

Just want to point out that this would never have happened if John Hurt had gone to the QA in Portsmouth with his really extreme Barrett's Oesophagus.

Just want to point out that this would never have happened if John Hurt had gone to the QA in Portsmouth with his really extreme Barrett's Oesophagus.

So I did. I had a lesion. Now the word 'lesion' doesn't sound too bad. The second doctor I saw though didn't call what they found a lesion. He called it a granular cell tumour. The second doctor got my attention. The surprising little detail they omitted though, until my third visit for an ultrasound, 'we have to find out how deep it is,' was that this unwanted new resident in my oesophagus was out of the Barrett's zone. That is, by a freak coincidence, in having had the routine endoscopy they picked up this other squatter. Bear in mind, this thing was tiny, only 4mm but by the time it was removed last week it had grown to 20mm. Yep, I've seen Alien too...

Subsequently,  I found myself in the operating theatre for the apparently small procedure, ‘we’ll just go in and snip it off,’ last week. It turned into a rather longer 2 hour procedure. I am now not on the pre-Christmas liquid diet I had envisaged. The day after the op I felt like a troop of Royal Marine Commando’s had climbed up my oesophagus using ice axes and crampons. It did in fact, hurt like buggery. Still, that’s me having ticked the box marked, ‘my first operation,’ and hopefully it will be another handful of decades before the next...

Bit premature there son........

Bit premature there son........

The family reaction left me somewhat bemused. Mrs Flashbang abandoned me as I was being wheeled away to go shopping then home, ‘call me when you’re ready to be picked up.’ My daughter didn’t call but spoke to her mother on the grounds that I didn’t display much empathy when she had her wisdom teeth out. One son, who has watched every single episode of House and knows more about medical complications than the average consultant did call but was slightly more interested in the procedure than I found comfortable while the other son messaged from his expedition saying, ‘so, is this the moment we put your Bucket List together Dad?’ charming……....

For what it is worth, and this is the point of the post, if you suffer from persistent acid reflux and heartburn, go and see your GP. Many souls knock back a few Rennie's or Gavascol and soldier on. That is not the correct drill. Some GP's will upgrade the usual remedies by prescribing Omeprazole which is a quick and easy fix but may cover up a more ominous problem smouldering away. An early diagnosis of Barrett's is obviously better than a late diagnosis. There is more to write on the subject, from a slightly more serious perspective, with regard to diet and I will do that in due course.

In the meantime, I'm very much looking forward to my return to the QA in Portsmouth for my follow up scope in Dec with the Olympic Endoscopy champions led by Professor Bhandari. If you want to see an example of world class medicine in the NHS, it's right there in Portsmouth.