09 March 2007

What the Endoscopy Revealed

On Wednesday, March 7 I had an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. This is a procedure in which a small, lighted tube with a camera is inserted through the throat to get a view of the upper digestive system. This includes the esophagus, stomach, and the upper portion of the small intestine. Because prior tests had revealed nothing out of the ordinary, the question of whether or not anything would be found this time nagged and niggled at me.

After being wheeled into the procedure room and being hooked up to oxygen and the appropriate monitors, I was given intravenous drugs to put me in a state of consciousness where I was essentially asleep, but able to respond to instructions to assist with the treatment (such as putting my mouth around a plastic ring to keep from biting on the tube, and subsequently swallowing the endoscope to help guide it through my digestive tract). The last thing I remember after being given the intravenous drugs is waking up in the recovery room about an hour later.

I have a follow-up appointment on March 27, but I was given a letter from the doctor containing his findings: I have a hiatal hernia and gastric mucosal atrophy.

Gastric mucosal atrophy is a condition in which the mucous membrane layer of the stomach has become chronically inflamed due to gastritis. This condition can result in a shrinking of the peptic glands and consequently, a lack of digestive juices. This makes it difficult to digest food and move it through the stomach normally.

There is a lot of helpful information and diagrams on the Mayo Clinic’s website about
hiatal hernia (to give credit where it is properly due, the information in the following paragraph is summarized & quoted from the article in the link provided at the beginning of this paragraph; the diagram is from this site as well). In short, the esophagus (food pipe) passes through an opening in the diaphragm called the hiatus. Hiatal hernias (or, “hiatus hernias”) occur when the surrounding muscle tissue becomes weak and the stomach pushes up through the hiatus so that a portion of the stomach is above the diaphragm.

“Ordinarily, the diaphragm is aligned with the lower esophageal sphincter, which relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach when you swallow. The diaphragm supports and puts pressure on the sphincter to keep it closed when you're not swallowing. But a hiatal hernia raises the sphincter above the diaphragm, reducing pressure on the valve. This permits the sphincter muscle to open at the wrong time, allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.”

The herniated portion of the stomach can become a reservoir for stomach acid, causing it to back up into the esophagus. With a sphincter that is not closing properly, the result is often gastroesophogeal reflux disease (or GERD), a condition I have already been diagnosed with.

I have yet to find out the severity of my condition; I have no idea how large the hernia is, or to what degree the gastric mucosa is damaged. As anyone who searches medical websites knows, it is good for general information, but not for self-diagnosis. I must wait to discuss the particulars of all this with my physician until my follow-up appointment on March 27. At this point, I am glad that what I’ve been experiencing over the last several months does, in fact, have a name. I look forward to discussing treatment options with my physician and Lord-willing, finding relief.

If I may be so bold, I have found a particular kinship with the apostle Paul in all this. While I have experienced nothing like the revelation he describes in 2 Corinthians 12, I am beginning to lay hold of the calling for which Christ formed me. I find I identify in some small way with his “thorn in [the] flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment [him]” (v 7).

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv 8-10, NIV).

I have pleaded with the Lord to take this away. But in His infinite wisdom, perfect will, and His ceaseless love, He has chosen to allow me to learn the depths to which His grace is sufficient. I am only a novice where such grace is concerned, but my prayer is that whether by my healing or by bearing with my own thorn, that the glory of God will be made manifest in my body.

I will provide updates as they become available.

God's grace is sufficient! I thank you friends, for your prayers and encouragement.


  1. I am so glad you have gotten to the source of the problem. I have to admit I am relieved to find out it is what it is. My brain had taken horrible alternate routes. I know it won't be fun to deal with, but it sounds like something you can deal with. I hope that if it comes to it, I can always say, "My scar is bigger than your scar." (Not because I want to out do you, but because I don't want you to have to go through major abdominal surgery.)

    I love you and am praying for you.

  2. My own brain had taken horrible alternate routes also! The internet is a great place to find information, but sometimes you can find too much. Like, "Oh no, I have cancer!" :o)

    Thank you for your prayers! They are greatly appreciated.

    P.S. And even if I do require surgery, I think you'll win the scar contest regardless! Based on what I've read, it sounds like most of those hiatal hernias that do require surgery are fixed with laproscopic surgery, so it's only a very tiny incision.

  3. Kirsten, I am so glad, with you, to know what it wrong. Your explanations made it make sense why you've been experiencing the sensations and sickness you have. I hate that you are going through this but glad the doctors can fix it (right?) and that you are clinging to His radiant garment of grace more tightly than ever before.

  4. Hurrah for (some) answers! And it sounds like you are doing a great job researching this stuff--being a well-informed patient is vital to your health. =) May God heal you however He sees fit.

  5. so sorry to hear about all this pain. truly. but so glad you shared too.