“Once again, welcome to another exciting edition of City Spotlight – Special Edition!” A booming, perfectly refined radio voice blasts through the speakers, and City Spotlight – a weekly radio show on WKDW-FM in North Port, Florida – is off to the races.
Listening to Dave Krieger effortlessly entertain listeners during his hour-long show, one would never suspect that he struggled for decades with painful esophageal damage and acid reflux.
“When I was a teenager, I started buying Rolaids in the little tubes, then the whole box, and it would all be gone within a month,” Dave recalled. “In my early 20’s it seemed like everyone was popping some sort of antacid, so I didn’t think anything was wrong with me.”
A former news director, anchorman and investigative journalist, Dave was used to late nights, little sleep and pushing his body to its limit. Like many patients, he assumed stress was contributing to his worsening symptoms. It wasn’t until his early 30’s that he found out what was causing the pain.
Dave was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, due in part to a hiatal hernia – a condition where the stomach pushes into the chest through an enlarged opening in the diaphragm. Barrett’s esophagus is a change in the esophageal lining to tissue similar to that found in the small intestine. In some patients, such modification is precancerous and carries an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Dr. Scott Corbett, gastroenterologist at Florida Digestive Health Specialists and director of the organization’s Barrett’s Esophagus Institute, recommended RFA – radio frequency ablation — a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat created by the frequencies to destroy precancerous tissue in the esophagus.
“Dave is one of those patients that is in the gray zone when you first look at his potential indicators for endoscopic eradication therapy,” said Dr. Corbett. “His demographic poses a lower risk (young, white male) but he has significant family history, even though he did not have dysplastic Barrett’s. It’s up to the physician to explain all options and let the patient be part of the decision-making process, then do the right thing for the patient.”
Prior to the procedure, Dave went to work doing what he does best – researching. He studied white papers about Barrett’s esophagus and learned about the DNA change that happens to the cells. He read about esophageal cancer and its high fatality rate. And he investigated his family medical history.
“If you get diagnosed with esophageal cancer, it’s a total game changer and there’s very little you can do,” said Dave. “My birth mom died of stomach cancer, but I think it might have started as Barrett’s, turned into esophageal cancer and spread to the stomach. She died within a week of her diagnosis.”
Dave opted for the treatment.
The procedure lasted 20 minutes, during which Dr. Corbett used an electrode mounted on an endoscope to deliver 60 bursts of heat directly to the diseased lining of the esophagus while Dave was under deep sedation.
It worked. A follow-up EGD revealed clean esophageal lining – the proof Dr. Corbett needed to declare Dave free of Barrett’s esophagus.
“David’s 2cm of Barrett’s was gone after a single session of RFA without any adverse events,” said Dr. Corbett. “The cost to do the procedure was minor in the big picture, but for improved quality of life and peace of mind … that’s priceless.”
Throughout his battle with esophageal disease, Dave never slowed down. But now, he can do what he loves without the looming possibility of damaged cells morphing into esophageal cancer. He also visits Dr. Corbett every few years for a surveillance EGD to ensure the cells aren’t changing.
“Most people like me struggle with it, pop pills and move on. They don’t care about the end result and don’t see the writing on wall, but I’ll never take that chance again,” said Dave. “Don’t ignore it. Once you’re fully informed, you know what to expect and you have a treatment plan, the apprehensiveness goes away.”