From Reflux to Recovery with the Heartburn & Reflux Center of Door County

Acid reflux is exceptionally common, with some estimates suggesting it affects more than 60 million people in the United States every month. Sometimes acid reflux becomes more than an uncomfortable nuisance, turning into a larger health issue that can even end up affecting the physical structure of your esophagus and stomach. When heartburn and reflux become serious enough that it affects your quality of life, the Heartburn & Reflux Center of Door County is here for you.

Jon's Story

Jon Hurley Heartburn & Reflux PatientFor Jon Hurley, heartburn and acid reflux symptoms started nearly 20 years ago. "It started as occasional heartburn that I would take antacids for," Jon recalls. "But as the years went by," he continues, "the heartburn became more frequent and with much stronger symptoms."

Eventually, Jon began experiencing acid reflux several times a week, at any point during the day, and it was becoming more frequent and intense at night. "I was having reflux more nights than not," he remarks, adding, "Sometimes, the acid reflux and regurgitation would get so bad that it would wake me up for several hours, and at that point, prescription medications were only occasionally effective."

Acid reflux generally occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)—a circular muscle that connects the esophagus and stomach and that tightens after food passes into the stomach—becomes weak and allows the stomach acid that digests your food to flow backwards into the esophagus. When acid reflux becomes a serious and chronic problem, it is referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Finding a more permanent solution

A few years ago, Jon saw his primary care physician at Door County Medical Center about his condition, and Dr. Richard Hogan diagnosed a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper portion of the stomach bulges through an opening in the diaphragm, thereby reducing pressure on the LES and allowing stomach acid to leak through into the esophagus. In other words, the symptoms of GERD Jon had experienced for years—the chronic acid reflux and regurgitation—originated with the hiatal hernia. Indeed, GERD is one of the primary conditions associated with a hiatal hernia.

As those symptoms became increasingly unmanageable through over-the-counter medications, and because of mounting concerns regarding the long-term health implications of an untreated hiatal hernia and untreated GERD, Jon made the decision to find a more permanent solution. "I sought out treatment for two reasons," Jon says. "Primarily, I was concerned that if I didn't get the hiatal hernia and LES fixed, the damage to my esophagus—the esophageal erosion and inflammation caused by continuous acid reflux—could develop into a more serious condition called Barrett's esophagus, which could then lead to cancer. Also," Jon continues, "I had been taking acid reflux medications—proton pump inhibitors—for more than 20 years. Long-term use of these medications is associated with serious side effects like kidney disease and dementia."

The decision to get surgery

"I was born in Sturgeon Bay, and have spent most of my adult life here," Jon says, adding, "Most of the healthcare I have received in my life has been through Door County Medical Center, and I've always had great prior experiences. My wife, Kerry, has been a nurse at DCMC for 17 years," he continues, "and she was very trusting of the excellent care I would receive both during my surgery and during recovery. So, the decision to go to Door County Medical Center to address my hiatal hernia and GERD was easy."

"Both Kerry and Dr. Hogan recommended that I see Dr. St. Jean," Jon recalls. Dr. Michael St. Jean specializes in minimally invasive surgery and has extensive experience using the da Vinci Xi surgical robot to address conditions like Jon's. "Once I met with Dr. St. Jean," Jon says, "and we discussed the procedure he would be performing, I decided this was the best chance for me to cure my acid reflux and to stop taking the daily prescription medications that were failing to do the job." 

Surgery, and the road to recovery

Prior to surgery, Jon underwent several studies to confirm the hiatal hernia and dysfunctional LES that both Dr. Hogan and Dr. St. Jean suspected. He received an esophagram—a type of x-ray that assists in exploring the anatomy of the esophagus and stomach, and that can also be used to establish whether a hiatal hernia is present and to help determine its size; the BravoTM reflux test—a minimally invasive test that places a small capsule on the esophageal wall and monitors pH levels for 48 hours to assess whether acid from the stomach is moving past the LES and into the esophagus; and Dr. St. Jean performed an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, which involves a thin, lighted tube with a small camera on the end being inserted into the esophagus (via the mouth), allowing the doctor to look at the inside of your esophagus, stomach, and the first part of your small intestine.

Once the hiatal hernia and the dysfunctional LES were confirmed, the decision was made to perform a Nissen Fundoplication. This surgical procedure involves repairing the hiatal hernia and the opening in the diaphragm with stitches or mesh, then attaching the uppermost part of the stomach (the fundus) to the lower esophageal sphincter in order to increase pressure on that muscle and restore the natural, physiological anatomy of the LES. It is a laparoscopic, minimally invasive procedure that is performed with the assistance of the da Vinci Xi surgical robot, and results in minimal side effects, eliminating the need for long-term medical therapy.

"Everything went as planned," Jon remarks, adding, "There were no surprises during the preparation and evaluation, and afterwards they confirmed that both the Nissen Fundoplication procedure and the hiatal hernia fix were both successful. " Following my discharge," Jon continues, "I was on a progressive diet so my stomach and esophagus could begin healing—a couple weeks of liquids only, then onto a soft foods diet. Healing from the surgical procedure did take some time, but I was in no hurry to rush that process."

"Today," Jon says, "I'm feeling close to 100%, and I'm no longer taking any medication for acid reflux. At 6 months," he continues, "I had a check up that confirmed that my LES and stomach are functioning normally. And while I've had to make some changes to my eating habits and diet, I'm happy to report that I received the results I was hoping for—I am healthier today than before my surgery."

Don't let recurring heartburn go unchecked, recurring and chronic heartburn and reflux can lead to more serious health issues down the road. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing heartburn on a regular basis, or the symptoms of heartburn have begun to impact quality of life, contact Door County Medical Center's Heartburn & Reflux Center at: 920-746-1060. For more information on the different options for treatment the Heartburn & Reflux Center offers please visit our website at:

Search our blog

Popular Tags

3D Mammography   75   75th   acid reflux   addiction   adrc   advance directive   Affective   alcohol   Algoma   Algoma Community Wellness Center   als   alzheimer's disease   Ambassador   American College of Healthcare Executives   Angel Ball   anniversary   antibody treatment   anti-bullying   apnea   art   art for health   art gallery   arthritis   athlete   athletic edge camp   athletic trainer   Auxiliary   award   awards   Awareness   back   behavioral health   bill   bone marrow transplant   Bravo   Breast Cancer Awareness Month   breast cancer prevention   breastfeeding   Brian   brussels sprout slaw   Burkitt Leukemia   C.H.I.P.   cancer   cardiac   cardiopulmonary services   care manager   cataracts   catholic   catholic sisters   Celebrate Community   celebration   center   Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services   ceremony   certification   childcare   children   CHNA   cold flu prevention   colon cancer   colonoscopy   community   community health   Community outreach   Coronavirus   COVID 19   COVID-19 booster   COVID-19 vaccine   critical access hospital   CT scanner   cyberbullying   da Vinci robot   da Vinci Surgical System   daisy award   Daylight Savings Time   DCMC   DCMC Auxiliary   DCMC staff   dementia   dental clinic   dentist   depot   depression   dermatology   diabetes   diagnostic imaging   Diana Wallace   diet   directcare   Disorder   dogs   Domestic Violence Awareness   donate   donor   Door County   Door County CARES   door county half marathon   Door County Meals Cooperative   door county schools   Door County Triathlon   Door County YMCA   Door Healthy Weight Center   Door Orthopedic Center   Dr. Daniel Tomaszewski   Dr. Elizabeth Gaida   Dr. Mark Jordan   Dr. Michael St. Jean   Dr. Reisner   Dr. Rory Johnson   Dr. Shaun Melarvie   drive-through clinic   e-cigs   economic impact   economy   Edge 3D   Education   emergency department   employee art   employment   environment   environmental stewardship   exercise   eye surgery   fair   Family   family medicine   family practice   farmer's market   first responders   fitness   five   five star hospital   Florence Nightingale   flu   foot   foot pain   Foundation   fundraiser   gallery   gardening   general surgery   Gerald   GERD   gynecological procedures   handwashing   happy holidays   head   health   health insurance   health tips   healthcare   healthcare career   healthcare leader   healthcare leaders   healthy eating   heart   heart healthy   heart-attack   heartburn   Heartburn and Reflux Center   Help Our Heroes   hernia   hernia screening   hip replacement   history   HOPELINE   hospice   hospital   House and Garden Walk   HPV   Human Kindness Project   immunization   infant   insomnia   insurance workshop   international overdose awareness day   internships   job   job openings   jody boes   joint replacement   June   kelsie ladick   kids   Kids' health   kim   knee replacement   Lab Drive-Thru   LEAP   lice   life   LifeAssist   living will   luke spude   lyme disease   mammography   marinara sauce   medical services   medication   memory   memory clinic   memory loss   men's health   men's health month   mental health   mental illness   milk   ministry   ministry fund   mission and values   MRI   National Donate Life Month   national heath decisions day   national hospital week   National Nurses Week   National Organ Donation Day   National Women’s History Month   navigator   New Year   newborn   news   no surprise act   non-profits   North Shore Medical Clinic   Northeast Wisconsin Technical College   novel coronavirus   nurse   nursing   nursing excellence   nursing program   nutrition   nwtc   obesity   OB-GYN   open house   ophthalmologist   opioid   OPSU   organ   organ donor   orthopedics   outpatient surgery   outreach   pap test   patient   patient care   patient financial services   Patti Balestrieri   Paula Hobart   pediatrics   pelvic health   pets   physical activity   physical therapy   plastic surgery   podiatrist   post exercise tips   PRC   Prevea   prevention   primary care   Providers   race   recipe   recovery   recruitment   reflux   rehab services   resolutions   respiratory illness   robotic surgery   rotator cuff repair   RSV   running   rural   rural healthcare   SAAM   SAD   safe haven   scholarship   scholarships   school   School Nursing   Seasonal   senior life solutions   senior therapy   Seniors   services   sexual assault   Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner   Shop and Dine Day   Sister Bay   Sister Bay Clinic   skilled nursing   skilled nursing facility   skin cancer   Sleep   sleep disorder   sleep lab   smoking   snf   social justice   sparc   specialty providers   sports   sports medicine   sports training   St. Francis   star   state-of-the-art   Stephens   stroke patients   studer group   suicide awareness   suicide awareness month   suicide prevention   summer   summer programs   sun care   surgery   sweet dreams   swiggum   technology   Teen health   Teens   telemedicine   teleNICU   telepediatrics   The Angel Ball   The Community's Garden   The Healing Project   therapy   ticks   tissue donor   to   tooth fairy   training tips   Treatment   triathlon   urgent care   vaccination   vaccinations   vaccine   vaping   virtual appontments   virtual visit   vision   vlog   volunteers   wall   Washington Island   wellness   Wendy Ulrikson   women's center   women's health   work injuries   world breastfeeding week   Worrick   wound care   years   YMCA   youth workshops