Licensed Texas peace officer Jimmy Fincher struggled, for 15 years, with acid reflux caused by a hiatal hernia. With an aversion to taking medication, he inconsistently took the antacids prescribed to lower his stomach acid even when experiencing debilitating abdominal pain after eating large meals and when laying a certain way, hearing gurgling noises in his chest.
Normally very active, it was not until Jimmy was in his late 60s that the hiatal hernia slowed him down. With a hiatal hernia, part of the stomach bulges upwards through the diaphragm into the chest.
“My hemoglobin level dropped from 14.8 to 7 in one year, and I had to have a blood transfusion,” said Jimmy. “Then my hemoglobin would return to normal, only to slowly fall again. After this happened three times, I decided to find out what was causing it.”
That is when Jimmy found Farzaneh Banki, MD, director of the Esophageal Disease Center at Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital and professor of surgery at the McGovern Medical School in Houston.
“When I first saw Dr. Banki, she asked if I had ever been shot in the line of duty,” explained Jimmy. “I said, ‘Yes, in my leg,’ but she wanted to know if I had been shot in my stomach or chest. That is when I remembered trauma in my stomach and chest during my career.
“Dr. Banki explained that my stomach was upside down, three-quarters of the way into my chest cavity. As the stomach moves through the diaphragm with breathing, it causes erosion in the stomach, which caused a tear and explained why my hemoglobin levels fell slowly over time. She described, in great detail, how she would make five small incisions in my abdomen, push my stomach back into place through the diaphragm opening, and hold it in place with a new mesh material.”
Jimmy’s laparoscopic surgery went smoothly and involved only an overnight stay at Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital.
“Dr. Banki and the Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital staff were all very caring, polite and helpful,” said Jimmy. “Dr. Banki even called me after I went home to check on me.”
Shortly after his surgery, Jimmy’s hemoglobin levels returned to normal ranges. He also left retirement, taking a part-time position with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department.
“Dr. Banki saved my life,” said Jimmy, now 72. “If it hadn’t been for her, I’d be on regular blood transfusions, or maybe dead. Dr. Banki is a blessing.”