Derbyshire woman who couldn't burp spends £3,000 on life-transforming surgery to end misery
A Derbyshire woman who was unable to burp, leaving her painfully bloated, has spent £3,000 on life-transforming surgery to fix the condition.
Charlotte Boyd is now determined to raise awareness of the disorder, known as retrograde cricopharyngeus dysfunction (RCPD), which she says affects thousands of people yet remains relatively unknown.
The recently-married 24-year-old from Dronfield, who had to use the money she and her husband were saving towards a house to afford the treatment, has also launched a petition to get the operation funded by the NHS.
Charlotte, who is a part-time waitress, bridal hair stylist and professional singer, says she had suffered with the condition all her life, with her mum telling her how she would projectile vomit as a baby and was hard to wind.
As an adult, she says it caused her great pain and discomfort, and left her looking heavily pregnant on a daily basis due to the trapped gas.
Having been diagnosed by doctors with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other dietary issues, it was only last year that she finally learned about RCPD and realised there was a way to end her misery.
She underwent a relatively straightforward procedure to fix the problem last week at BMI The Alexandra Hospital, which she says took less than an hour under general anaesthetic, and the early signs are promising.
“Burping is something most people take for granted but when you can’t do it, it causes A LOT of pain and discomfort and you’d do anything to be able to burp,” she said.
"Being able to burp means I will no longer look heavily pregnant on a daily basis. It means I can go out with friends (when Covid is over obviously) and enjoy a nice meal without worrying about the abdominal pain and trapped gas in my chest.
"Five days post-surgery, I have experienced six or seven ‘microburps’ (small burps). Before, I would get gurgles in my chest (at the bottom of my neck), whereas now the air is coming to the back of my throat so I think it’s working!”
According to Mr Yakubu Karagama, the ear, nose and throat consultant who treated Charlotte, RCPD is caused by a fault with the cricopharyngeal muscle in the throat which usually relaxes to release trapped gas but fails to do so in sufferers.
The treatment, only offered by a handful of specialists worldwide, involves injecting the muscle to partially paralyse it and enable patients to begin burping again, though Mr Karagama explains that it can take around three months for their bodies to relearn how to do so.
Charlotte discovered the condition while researching her symptoms online, and she soon learned there was a whole community of ‘no-burpers’ on Reddit sharing their woes and advice on how to live with RCPD.
“Thousands of people live with this condition and this forum is full of sufferers asking questions about RCPD, or people sharing their experiences with doctors that have refused to listen to them,” she said.
"This forum has shown me just how common this condition is but, because it isn’t yet recognised by the NHS, the treatment isn’t available on the NHS.
“I’m hoping this petition will raise awareness of RCPD and prevent other sufferers living in pain and discomfort.”
To sign the petition, visit change.org/p/lee-rowley-make-rcpd-treatment-available-on-the-nhs.