For many of us, meal times are like the oasis in the dessert that we look forward to with pleasure especially after hours of hard work.

 

 

This has not been the case for Josefa “Josie” Caponpon, a mother and factory worker, who, for the past five years, has been suffering from a rare condition called Achalasia.  This disease causes difficulty in swallowing, where patients feel like food is stuck in the esophagus. Consequently, such an event can cause coughing and choking on food.

 

Since the onset of her symptoms, Josie has seen various doctors, trying to find remedy. Initially she was diagnosed with acid reflux for which she took various medications, which unfortunately, didn’t help her much. She went to a series more of doctors before she finally met one who instructed her to go through the Barium Swallow Test, through which she was finally diagnosed with Achalasia, which according to Hopkins Medicine is a “rare disorder with about eight to 12 people per 100,000 diagnosed.” According to experts, Achalasia is the failure to relax of muscles towards the end of the swallowing tube or esophagus, thus, disrupting the passage of swallowed food.

 

With her diagnosis, Josie was informed that she need to undergo dilatation that will set her back for Php 20,000.00. The fact that this was rather steep for a factory worker’s salary was not the worst news for Josie. She also learned that the procedure will only give her temporary relief and that she will need to go through another dilatation after two or three years.

 

 

 

And then Josie was referred to Dr. Grace Santi, a gastroenterologist from De La Salle University Medical Center (DLSUMC). Dr. Santi, together with her father, Dr. Ricardo Santi, is spearheading a demonstration workshop on Per-Oral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM) at DLSUMC, where Prof. Haruhiro Inoue, MD, FASGE and Asst. Prof. Hirotomi Minami of the Digestive Disease Center of Showa University Endoscopy Northern Yokohama Hospital at Yokohama, Japan are slated to demonstrate this innovative procedure that permanently corrects Achalasia. The technique was developed by Dr. Inoue himself.

Thus, Josie became the first Achalasia patient in the Philippines to have gone through the POEM technique. The procedure was successfully done on January 24 at DLSUMC by Prof. Inoue himself, assisted by Asst. Prof. Minami and Dr. Santi. The said procedure was witnessed by 20 doctors from various hospitals. Prof. Inoue also discussed the technique and how it can help in the early diagnosis of asegastrointestinal cancers during a lecture before an audience of 150 doctors and medical students at the Auditorium of De La Salle Health Sciences Institute’s College of Medicine.

As for Josie, only four days after the procedure, she was already eating and enjoying crackers, now without fear of reflux and choking. Now, she can look forward to meal times with as much pleasure as we do, thanks to Prof. Inoue and Dr. Grace Santi who brought to the Philippines the answer to her malady after having gone through a training program in Japan under Prof. Inuoe himself.