According to a story from wect.com, local singer Dustin Chapman of Whiteville, NC has been struggling for years against a rare disease called achalasia, which affects the esophagus. He recently received a surgical procedure called a myotomy, in which a shallow lengthwise cut is made along the esophagus so that the patient can begin to eat and drink normally. However, so far the operation does not seem to have achieved the intended result.
Achalasia is a disease of the esophagus in which the smooth muscles do not relax normally. As a result, the lower sphincter of the esophagus, where food passes into the stomach, will not open. In most cases, the cause of the condition is unknown. However, research has found that people with achalasia lack a certain type of ganglion cell; some scientists think that there may be an autoimmune component to the condition, perhaps triggered by viral infection. The primary symptoms of achalasia are trouble swallowing, weight loss, chest pain, and the regurgitation of food. The chest pain may become severe and can be mistaken for a heart attack. This progressive condition is usually treated with sublingual nifedipine, surgery, or other medications. To learn more about achalasia, click here.
A Heller myotomy is usually effective in improving symptoms for about 90 percent of achalasia patients, but at this juncture it seems like Dustin is not going to be part of that 90 percent. Unfortunately, he will most likely need a feeding tube if, within the next four weeks, nothing changes. The operation caused him to lose his voice for around a week, which was particularly distressing for him.
Music has played a major role in helping Dustin cope with his condition. Last June he opened for country artist Luke Bryan and has also auditioned for America’s Got Talent in the past. While his voice seems to be back to normal now, Dustin plans to spend 2019 to spreading more awareness about achalasia, a condition that very few people have ever hear of; after all, only about one in every 100,000 people are affected.
Dustin hopes that his story will lead anyone experiencing similar symptoms to consult medical help as promptly as they can.