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Living in Washburn, Wisconsin during the peak summer months can really only be seen to be believed. Glistening boats moored at the marina, sunset reflections off Lake Superior, the tight-knit community, the outdoor activities. All things that Washburn resident Josh Fleig has held in high regard.

“I love being outside with my family, on the boat, exploring the area,” Fleig said. “But even with all those things in front of me waiting to be enjoyed, I was suffering in silence.”

For 27 years, Josh has been afflicted with chronic acid reflux, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), an exhausting condition where stomach acid persistently makes its way back up the esophagus, burning the throat and disrupting every aspect of life.

“For nearly 30 years, I’ve never slept more than three hours a night,” he said. “It started when I was 16 and it has been one of the most crippling things to live with. It’s hard to play with the kids, constantly coughing, having every food or beverage trigger the reflux, and regurgitating during the night. It was all around miserable and I felt like I was missing out on truly enjoying life. It consumed me.”

Historically, for people living with GERD, surgical procedures may have temporarily assisted, but for the most part, patients were left to cope with heavy-duty doses of PPI (proton-pump inhibitor) medications.

“I was on just about every type of PPI you can think of - I tried them all, and for the last 27 years I’ve relied on daily max milligram dosage of my prescribed PPI. Even still, the GERD was still horrible and prevented sleep” he said. “In late 2021, I was doing a routine visit with my gastroenterologist and he mentioned Dr. Bettendorf had recently started at Memorial Medical Center and was doing a minimally-invasive procedure for people with acid reflux.”

It’s called LINX. A nickel-sized magnetic ring that naturally tightens around the lower part of the esophagus to help restore the body’s natural barrier to reflux.

“It’s quite an incredible invention and has been a great addition to the treatment of GERD” said Dr. Matthew Bettendorf, general surgeon at Memorial Medical Center. “When we place the LINX device, we see immediate results. Reflux is gone in the recovery room. And it’s an outpatient procedure, so people can leave the same day and get back to living a life free of reflux symptoms.”

For Josh, any skepticism he had about getting the LINX device drifted away when he experienced nearly instant relief after the procedure.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I honestly could not believe it. It worked. I could feel something had changed almost immediately and the relief was a miracle for me. I thought I’d have to live with this horrible discomfort my whole life, and only a couple weeks after the procedure I was totally off my medication, sleeping through the night, and enjoying being happy and active.”

He calls it a miracle ring. Much like the life rings down at the Washburn Marina, this LINX ring gave Josh another grasp at a life without pain.

“I’m beyond both thankful and grateful! I have absolutely no more heartburn, no more medication, and no more sleepless nights! This really is a dream come true,” he said.

Plus, he said the professionalism and compassion he received from Dr. Bettendorf and his team were unparalleled.

“I almost felt like a celebrity! They treated me so well, and Dr. Bettendorf just knocked it out of the park. As physicians go, he’s one of the best I’ve ever known,” he said. “He was humble, and helpful, and I could tell his faith was also important to him, like it is to me. That was something we shared in common, and what he did to help me was a miracle in my eyes.”

“Josh is such a cool guy - I was so happy he could benefit from the LINX and that he can enjoy food, activities, and fun again,” said Dr. Bettendorf.

This procedure helped steer Josh back on course in a healthy, happy way. “I’m a pretty reserved person, but I want to tell everyone I know about this amazing procedure,” he said. “I’m still just over the moon about it all.”

Want to learn more about the LINX device and Dr. Matthew Bettendorf?

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