Success Stories

Janie Martz, Aitkin

Janie Martz, who is diabetic, developed severe gastrointestinal symptoms from a common condition called gastroparesis.

“I was feeling full all the time and had a bloated stomach with no appetite. I suffered from chronic diarrhea with a stomach-ache every day,” Janie said. “I was pretty miserable and lost 30 pounds over several months.”

Janie was taking a medication to help manage her diabetes, and that may have been aggravating her stomach symptoms. “Because I developed worsening gastro-intestinal symptoms, my doctor referred me to the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center for specialist evaluation. I had no idea that I had a diagnosis of gastroparesis until I saw Dr. Paul Severson for evaluation of my severe stomach and digestive symptoms.”

Dr. Severson, a reflux specialist with the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center, performed an endoscopic procedure called G-POEM (gastric peroral endoscopy myotomy) that successfully treated Janie’s gastroparesis.

A month after her procedure at Riverwood Healthcare Center, Janie reports that she had no pain whatsoever with the procedure and she went home the same day.

Janie added: “As soon as my stomach was able to empty completely again, it was like night and day. I feel so much better, and I can eat what I want now. The best part of my treatment is that there was no need for surgery with incisions, and I never even had to leave my hometown to receive such amazing care.”

Dr. Severson said: “Now that we can so readily help patients with gastroparesis, we hope that patients, and their healthcare providers, will become more aware of this condition and come to the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center for diagnosis and treatment.”

Dan Waxlax, North Shore

A chronic cough was Dan Waxlax’s only symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

“I didn’t have any heartburn or acid reflux in my throat, but I was coughing five to six times every half hour,” Dan explained. “My daughter-in-law, who is a doctor, was the one who identified my cough as a GERD symptom that should be checked out.”

On his daughter-in-law’s recommendation, Dan sought an evaluation at the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center (MRHC) at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin. The diagnostic test results revealed that Dan has Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition that can lead to esophageal cancer.

Dr. Andrew Loveitt, MRHC reflux specialist and general surgeon, performed a Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF), which involves reconstructing the anti-reflux valve between the esophagus and the stomach to restore the body’s natural protection against refluxing stomach contents. There are no scars for the patient and frequently a quicker recovery than other more invasive procedures.

Dan also had a robotic-assisted hiatal hernia repair using the da Vinci System. The da Vinci is powered by robotic technology that allows the surgeon’s hand movements to be translated into smaller, precise movements of tiny instruments inside the patient’s body.

“I chose to get my GERD treated as a preventative step to avoid getting cancer,” Dan said. “There was no pain or discomfort with the TIF procedure I had done at Riverwood. Dr. Loveitt did a wonderful job!”

The TIF procedure is typically done as an outpatient procedure but given Dan’s three-hour drive from his home on Minnesota’s North Shore, Dan was hospitalized for overnight monitoring.

“I had excellent nursing care during my hospital stay,” Dan added. “Everyone was very friendly, including the cleaning staff. The care at Riverwood was outstanding, and I’ve had medical care at the Mayo Clinic.”

Rita Oaks

A business development consultant who lives in Duluth, learned of expert reflux and heartburn care at a seminar sponsored by the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center.  She shares her success story on innovative treatment that has made a world of difference in her quality of life and what she can do without any more pain.


“I had struggled with acid reflux for many years and my symptoms really got worse over the past 10 years. Lifestyle issues such as frequent national travel and job stress contributed to my GERD issues. I was an all-day refluxer, taking an antacid and two Alka Seltzer daily. In addition, I carried Rolaids in all my things—nightstand, purse and desk. Every swallow of food I took was painful.

After attending the Reflux and Heartburn Solutions seminar, I called Riverwood for an appointment with a reflux specialist. From the first conversation with Dawn Harcey, Clinical Coordinator for the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center at Riverwood, I had a great patient experience. She was so kind, helpful and knowledgeable. When I call her, I get quick answers to my questions and she consults my doctor for his opinion on my health concerns.

I went through a series of diagnostic tests—EGD, tissue biopsy, Bravo pH monitoring, and manometry—and it was such a relief to find out I did not have esophageal cancer or the precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus.

Last fall, I had a LINX procedure, where a small flexible bracelet of interlinked titanium beads with magnetic cores was implanted around my lower esophageal sphincter. At the same time, the surgeon repaired my hiatal hernia, another contributor to my acid reflux.

It’s an incredible feeling when you realize you can do simple daily activities without acid reflux—tying my tennis shoes, sleeping on my side again. I had another Bravo test recently, and I don’t have any acid reflux today!

I’ve never had healthcare where the staff is so caring! Through my multiple appointments and care at Riverwood, I got friendly greetings from every person I encountered, from the surgery and endoscopy team to food service workers and the clinic greeter who remembered my name.

I owe a lot to the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center at Riverwood for making my life so much better. I can truly say the 85-mile drive from Duluth to Aitkin is well worth it for great healthcare.”

Dawn Britney Shockency

Attending a Riverwood seminar on solutions for reflux and heartburn put Dawn Britney Shockency of Coleraine on the road to recovery from gastro-esophageal reflux disease.

“I had been struggling with worsening acid reflux symptoms for the past three to four years,” Dawn explains. “I was having a lot of acid reflux at night. It got to the point where I could hardly eat at all and I felt nauseous all the time.”


After attending the March 2017 seminar, Dawn decided to see if they could help her at the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin—the town where she grew up and graduated from high school.

An EGD exam, which offers a view of the inside of the upper digestive tract, revealed that in addition to a hiatal hernia, Dawn had ulcers in her esophagus. A special medication was prescribed that cleared up the ulcers in about a month.

The MRHC reflux specialist who examined and treated Dawn recommended that she have a Nissen fundoplication procedure to treat her severe acid reflux disease in December 2017.

“At age 79, I was worried that I was too old to have this surgery,” Dawn adds. “But my decision to go for it was the best decision in my whole life! I have no heartburn and I can eat pizza and spaghetti again. I haven’t felt this good in ages. ”

Tabatha Peters, Aitkin

Tabatha Peters, age 36, began suffering from gastro-esophageal disease in her early 20’s.

“My symptoms became worse when I was pregnant with my first child at age 27, at which time I was unable to eat and drink any large amounts of tomato products, orange juice or any foods with acid,” Tabatha explains. “I was continually eating Tums to cope with the burning feeling. “

She finally talked to her doctor, who put her on a prescription acid blocker, which helped for many years to control the symptoms of burning, pain and acid taste in throat and mouth.

“When I became pregnant with my second child in 2015, my GERD came back again in full force,” she said. “This time it was so bad that I could not eat anything acid-based and again took Tums through my entire pregnancy. I was not able to eat or drink anything without feeling the pain and burning in my throat.”

Losing weight and feeling she could no longer just “live with it”, Tabatha scheduled an appointment with a reflux specialist at the Minnesota Center for Reflux and Heartburn in Aitkin.

Tabatha underwent three tests, including an EGD, ambulatory pH test and esophageal manometry, to evaluate her symptoms. The EGD revealed a small hiatal hernia, and the manometry showed  poor functioning of her esophagus. Given these results, the reflux specialist explained that medication would no longer help. The best treatment choice for Tabatha was a laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication procedure, which was performed in October 2016.

Tabatha adds: “The recovery time was minimal and there was very little pain. At the follow-up exam a week later I was feeling good.  Two weeks after my procedure, I was GERD-free and have not had any problems with it since then.  I am a much happier person now. I recommend this procedure to anyone who has had GERD.”


Steve Kaskinen, Minnetonka

Steve Kaskinen, 42, an Information Technology Manager of Minnetonka, had bad asthma, coughed incessantly, nasal rhinitis, extreme allergies and would become short breathed just walking up a few stairs. For more than 10 years, he was in and out of hospitals and clinics in the Twin Cities attempting to be treated. Because of the breathing issues and coughing, he was treated by a pulmonologist for several years. After trying several medications and treatments with no success, the specialist determined he had a reflux problem and prescribed medications. He felt better initially but then a couple weeks later, Steve’s problems got worse. He developed hernias and needed operations. He wasn’t getting any oxygen and couldn’t even get up from his sofa without being out of breath and experienced a burning sensation just walking around his home. At that point, he was referred to a gastroenterologist who conducted a Bravo test and learned that Steve had really bad reflux; that the acid in his throat was causing all of his problems. The specialist gave him three options:  take medications the rest of his life and eventually develop esophageal cancer, undergo a fundoplication which has lots of side effects or undergo the LINX procedure. He chose the LINX procedure because it had no side effects and seemed so simple—a magnet would be inserted to close his throat so it would work normally and not allow stomach acid to reflux. He learned that his health insurance would not cover LINX but because his wife is a medical professional, she knew how to research the procedure and learned that there were trial procedures being done in Crosby. He agreed to be part of the study at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center so he could help change coding and encourage insurance companies to pay for the procedure so others would not suffer. Immediately after the procedure as Steve was recovering in his hospital room, his family and friends were startled that he was no longer coughing. Acid was not flushing into his throat. He said it was uncomfortable to eat about four weeks after the procedure but that the trade off was well worth it. He startled himself when he ran up the stairs of his home and walked down the hallway with no heavy breathing. He no longer needs the anti-acid or asthma medications, his chest doesn’t hurt, the sensitivity to smells is gone and his allergies are better. Steve says without the surgery, he would not have been able to handle caring for Zane, his six-month-old son, and now his wife, Jill, who just underwent surgery. “It was a great experience, if you are having some of the same asthma and cough problems I did, then I would really recommend the Minnesota Reflux & Heartburn Center in the Brainerd Lakes Area. The procedure has made a massive change in my life, the facility was great and the care I received was exemplary.”

Elvera Tousley, Crosslake

“I had been coughing for over a year.  I couldn’t sleep, gave up coffee, tea and chocolate and couldn’t even go to church because I coughed so much. I saw several doctors and specialists who said there was nothing they could do and I would just have to live with it; I didn’t know what to do. Finally, my son-in-law who is a doctor in the Twin Cities recommended the Minnesota Reflux & Heartburn Center. I had the LINX procedure in June and stopped coughing immediately. I’m back to my old self. I’m sleeping, eating whatever I want and am back to church and playing cards with my friends.”

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Contact a nurse coordinator

Crosby: Lea carlson, RN
Aitkin: Dawn Harcey, RN