Ever since I could first remember, I’ve always suffered (the struggle lol) from severe heartburn. I’d feel a fire in my chest and try to ignore it… until I couldn’t… and throw up.
That’s basically the gist of this entire post. If you can’t handle it, feel free to stop reading at this point.
I was so young, that I didn’t even know what I had. I did however, quickly learn to recognize the tell-tale signs that I was going to have to… hurl. It gave me enough time to “prep” (take off my watch, roll up sleeves, tie my hair up, etc…).
I also learned to avoid anything with Citric Acid (KDD Cocktail, KDD Orange, KDD Mango, etc… basically all the Juice Boxes sold at the school’s Canteen), and Chocolate/Honey/Jam (not that I liked any of them anyway, ugh) and Ketchup/Soy Sauce (which I loved), because they exasperated the symptoms. However, drinking fresh Pineapple Juice pretty much felt like liquid fire going down my throat!
I wanna’ say I was around 10 years old (5th grade… Ms Mayor’s Class) when one of my uncles told my mom that he believed I was experiencing “heart-burn” or as we call it in Arabic “haarij“. So my mom gave me a strip of Glycodal chewable tablets, which made my life much easier for the next few years.
I’d have a slice of Pizza on “Pizza Day” at school, experience heartburn afterwards, chew on a tablet… and the heartburn would disappear! Just like most kids, I’d indulge in candy (which contained citric acid) during weekends at our Chalet at Dubaiya (not Dubai lol) and as soon as I’d feel “the fire”, I’d pop a pill and start chewing on it. On our weekly outing (my mom and dad would take my younger bro and I to a different restaurant for lunch every Friday, back when Wednesday was the end of the school-week and Thurs/Fri were off), without fail, I’d always ask my mom for plate of fried shrimp with a side of fries (regardless of the restaurant) and proceed to drown everything in Ketchup. As soon as I’d feel pangs of pain in my chest, I’d pop a pill and all would be well again. Basically, it meant that I had to have my pills on me, at all times!
Unfortunately, as I grew older and continued my unhealthy eating/drinking habits, I developed a tolerance for the anti-acid chewable tablets, and they stopped working as efficiently. Everything triggered my heartburn, even water! Heck, especially water. I tried Peppermint Tea, which was meant to soothe heartburn, but it just made it worse. I tried a cold glass of Milk, but it made it worse too. All those “home remedies” never worked for me. I had to resort to chewing x2 tablets, back-to-back and sometimes, even that wasn’t enough. I’d end up taking off my wristwatch, tying my hair up and sprinting to the bathroom to vomit. Ironically, as much as I was constantly hurling, I was actually overweight.
The heartburn was not exactly comfortable, but the pain wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. What was annoying however, was the tell-tale signs on my face. At first, I thought it was pimples (I had perfect and I mean perfect skin, so this was new to me), but I chalked it up to puberty… but then, I noticed that those “pimples” were only on my cheeks. They were never itchy or painful. They weren’t even raised (they were at level with the rest of my skin) and didn’t feel “bumpy” or anything like that. Heck, at an arm’s length, they were actually kinda’ pretty, because they made me look like I was wearing Blush lol As I grew older, I realized that those “pimples” were actually broken blood vessels, from all that fun dry heaving. To this day, I only get them if I ever throw up. Typically, they always last for about a week or so.
I like to believe that I was not vain, so it was never about looks. The tell-tale signs bugged me, because my family learned to recognize them as well. They had visible proof that I’d just vomited. Everyone from my mom and dad to my older sister and brother, would give me these looong drawn-out lectures (because they cared) saying things like, “It’s because of all that ketchup you practically drink”, etc…, which was fine… the first couple hundred times, but started to grate on me, every time after.
It was particularly worse at night, when I’d be asleep, because that’s when I’d have the least amount of time to “prep”. Laying down sped up the “effects” (which made getting the flu or “that time of the month” or any other time where I actually needed to lay in bed… pretty interesting). The heartburn would be so severe that it’d wake me up from a deep sleep, and I’d barely have enough time to run to the bathroom. Once, I didn’t even make it all the way to the toilet and projectile vomited all over the bathroom floor. The clean-up was so traumatizing, that I’ve forced myself to keep it down (until I was safely in the bathroom) ever since.
To buy more time (few seconds, at best), I learned to sit upright (back completely straight), and take several big gulps of air. It gave me enough time to tie my hair up, sprint to the bathroom, flip the toilet seat up, etc… I also learned pretty early on, to sleep on x2 pillows (to keep my head elevated). I had to sleep on either side though, because laying flat on my back also gave me heartburn.
I keep saying I quickly learned, because these mistakes weren’t the kind where I could go “whoops!” and just fix everything by changing my position or trying something else or whatever. I’d make a mistake and pay it for it by dealing with what felt like liquid fire in my esophagus, slowly and painfully burning its way back up, until it came out of my mouth.
Even swimming either at the pool or any beach, was a whole adventure in and of itself! I’d be all happy and content splashing around in a pool, when out of nowhere, I’d get heartburn. Naturally, I’d have to get out of the water and dig in my Beach Bag to find a tablet to chew on, all while shivering uncomfortably with cold.
Being on the heavier side (read: fat), made the trek from the pebbled shoreline, across the shallow seawater (which was equally riddled with pebbles), all whilst barefoot, actually kinda’ painful lol Only once the water was a little over my waist, could I start swimming further out. One ill-timed inhale and small sip of seawater later, and I was dealing with full-blown heartburn. I’d try to prolong the painful trek back (to get a tablet or two), for as long as possible, but the heartburn would get worse and worse, until I’d be forced to hurry out of the water and sprint towards the public bathroom to go vomit (I’d be past the point of chewing an anti-acid tablet). Basically, if I ever forgot my Glyocodal, I’d pay for it… dearly.
I kept chewing Glycodal, and my tolerance to it grew and grew. I’d chew on several anti-acid tablets throughout the day… and still feel “the burn”. It got to the point where I had some Glycodal stashed… everywhere! I grew so dependent on that stuff, that I felt extremely vulnerable leaving the house without a strip of Glycodal. Not that it mattered, because practically everything gave me heartburn lol
During my mid-teens, one of my older brothers who lives in the U.S. (two of my older brothers were born there, studied there, work there and basically live there, but visit us frequently) was back in Kuwait for a bit, and noticed that I popped anti-acid pills like, well, candy. During his next visit, he came back with a thing of Tums in the Assorted Berries flavor. What a huuuge difference!!!!
Unlike that horrid Glyocodal that tasted awful, took an eternity to chew and stuck to teeth, Tums tasted so yummy in comparison, was considerably softer and easier to chew, which therefore led to less crushed up pieces sticking between the teeth! I couldn’t thank the dude enough!
Eventually, I ran out. So, I asked my other older brother to bring me Tums during his next visit to Kuwait. I made sure to specify that the flavor was Assorted Berries. He assured me that I’d get my Tums. However, when he arrived in Kuwait, he handed me x2 tubs of the Assorted Fruit flavor. Sure enough, the majority of the anti-acid tablets in the Assorted Fruit flavor… gave me heartburn lol The x2 tubs of Tums were about 160 tablets in total, so I blew through those pretty quick.
Once I started driving, I tried my hand at the local offerings, trying to find an alternative, but most of them actually gave me heartburn, especially the peppermint flavored ones like Rennie lol It stood out to me in particular because unlike the previous tablets which were round, Rennie was square-shaped. Also, it had a chalky texture… which was vile! The crushed up pieces would lodge themselves between teeth as well. Basically, it was an all around mess. At least, I didn’t have to bother my mom about importing that horrible Glycodal for me anymore, since I was hitting up all the local pharmacies.
Since the medication was pretty ineffective, I got the timing down to an art. I knew exactly how long I had before I was going to vomit. I knew exactly what to do to come out unscathed. I knew exactly how far to lean in so there’d wouldn’t be a single drop on my clothing. Other than the tell-tale signs of the broken blood vessels on my cheeks, nobody could tell that I’d literally just got done throwing up! Unfortunately, I couldn’t predict whether the bathroom stalls were empty or not, and sometimes I’d get stuck having to throw up into an actual trashcan or worse…
Once, while abroad, I was at a Cafe (situated next to a dark alley) and my friend urged me to try the Peppermint Tea. I knew better, but I went for it anyway. Sure enough, the fire started brewing in my chest. As I was chewing on a Rennie tablet, I realized I had mere seconds to sprint to the bathroom. I quickly unclasped my wristwatch, grabbed a scrunchie from my handbag to tie my hair up into a high ponytail and ran up the impossibly narrow steps, two at a time, to the bathroom on the top floor. All occupied!
I remembered the dark alleyway and headed towards there, where I vomited into the large neon yellow garbage bin. Out of nowhere, this cute couple sauntered up to me and started asking me if I was okay. The girl started rubbing my back while the guy offered me an unopened bottle of water. It warmed my heart (in a non-heartburn-y way to know that they were still nice people out there). My friend who was accustomed to all this, was dying laughing. She’d witnessed the whole exchange from the table we’d chosen at the Cafe. She knew I got heartburn at the drop of a hat and knew that I preferred my privacy while vomiting my guts out. She also knew that people abroad regularly mistook it (understandably so) as me being drunk! That’s why she was laughing. It was pretty funny!
Eventually, I stumbled upon Maalox. It tasted bad and worse still, it had horrible texture. It was all slick and smooth on one side (white side) and all gritty and kinda’ chalky on the other side (yellow side). Plus, it tended to stick between teeth. Still, it was better than nothing. I stuck with Maalox for a good long while and have even seen it go through several packaging updates lol
At that point, I was chewing several pills a day (no less than 5), because I was pretty much eating and drinking whatever I wanted. I’d given up on trying to avoid, well, everything. I suffered for it (with severe heartburn, that chewing pills back-to-back did nothing at all to decrease), but… worth it!
Basically, I’d get the flu or whatever, so I’d pop a Panadol (which gave me heartburn) or take my Antibiotics Meds (which gave me heartburn) and drink piping hot Tea (which gave me heartburn) or Chicken Noodle Soup (which gave me heartburn) or plain Water (which gave me heartburn). I’d lay in bed, resting my head on x2 pillows and still get heartburn. It felt very much so like a case of “damned if you, damned if you don’t”, which is why I gave up even trying to stay on top of it, and just did whatever.
Whenever either of my older brothers would drop by, they’d bring a thing or two of Tums for me (sometimes in the flavor I wanted, sometimes not) which I’d finish up in under 2 months and go back to using Maalox. During College, one of my kinda’ new friends (we went to the same Highschool but never actually got to know each other up until College) would polish off several Tums (that she’d just snatch from my Bag) just because they tasted like candy to her, but not once did she ever touch Maalox lol
During my very first trip to Germany in 2008 (I was 23 years old) I decided to get checked my heartburn issue checked out. Mainly because even if I ended up with the lousiest and least qualified Doctor in Germany, I’d still trust that Doctor infinitely more than I would trust the best and most qualified Doctor in Kuwait. I booked an appointment and had some testing done and once the anesthetic or whatever wore off, popped in to see the Doctor and was immediately told exactly what my issue was! Imagine that. Instant results. As a Kuwaiti living in Kuwait for most of my life, I’ve never experienced anything like this in Kuwait… ever!
Typically the Government Hospitals (Free) take forever to do anything. It takes forever to even get to see a Doctor, forever to actually get to testing you (there’s a huge waiting list on almost all the heavy machinery) and forever for the results to come out. All this can take months and months!
Meanwhile the Private Hospitals (Not Free) are just as ineffective. It takes forever to get to see a Doctor, the machinery may not be in use (no crazy waiting list), but because they all want more money from you, they’ll prescribe all kinds of unnecessary testing (because it’s expensive) and lots of unnecessary meds (also expensive). You get the results much faster, however the results somehow always lead to more testing lol It’s endless. I’ll go in with a sprained ankle and they’ll be like “You need an Ultrasound and MRI and CT Scan and Urine Test and Blood Tests”.
Anyways, in Germany, there was a huge Recuperating Area in the Hospital, where patients were supposed to wait for the anesthetic to wear off (after their procedure), until they were fully functioning and lucid enough to get up and walk out. Apparently, I was a bit problematic and refused to stay seated in the Recliner and kept trying to get up and walk out. While the Nurse felt the need to shame me about my behavior while I was, I suppose you could say… inebriated (Joke’s on you, lady! I don’t feel shame, ever lol) the Doctor I sat down with didn’t bring it up. I heard the Nurse chattering away in German and giving me major side-eye, but the Doctor was actually very warm towards me! She even laughed at all my one-liners, which made me warm up to her right away!
She told me I had a Hiatus Hernia. I didn’t know what it meant, but it sounded to me that even my Hernia was as lazy as I was lol I only had 2 questions.
1) Was it anything I did? She assured me that it was hereditary. I was over the moon! It wasn’t my fault! It never was! I could not wait to tell my family!
2) How soon could they operate? (Typical Arab Mentality lol) She told me that it wasn’t how they do things. First, she wanted to try less invasive options. My heart sank. I didn’t live in Germany and honestly, it was so cold over there, that I couldn’t wait to get back to my sweltering third world desert country. I needed a permanent fix and I didn’t trust a single Doctor in Kuwait (be they Kuwaiti or not) to help me. However, she was German and a Doctor, so I was inclined to believe that she knew what was best.
She prescribed Nexium. I bought a ton of it (I mean boxes and boxes) and took them back to Kuwait with me. These pills were meant to be swallowed with a glass of water. Nexium seemed very different (more serious) than all those cutesy chewable tablets I had been messing around with for most of my life. It kinda’ made me feel uncomfortable taking them. However, I took a pill every 12 hours (possibly 24 hours, can’t remember) for a few days, but then kept switching jobs and things got chaotic and sorta’ forgot all about Nexium… up until all the boxes I’d purchased… expired. I couldn’t find Nexium locally until many, many years later. I spotted it, but wasn’t interested in it.
I couldn’t find Maalox in the white packaging anymore. It seems it had been updated to the newer blue packaging. Also, apparently it was now in the flavor Lemon Creme. I took one look at it and thought well that’s definitely going to give me heartburn. Surprisingly, it didn’t! It actually cured my heartburn (temporarily, of course).
I bought this stuff, in bulk and stashed a strip everywhere! I had a strip in most of my “go to” handbags, ready to go at any given moment. I had a strip stashed in every single home of all my closest friends and cousins. I had boxes of this stuff in one of the lower drawers at my desk at work. I had boxes of this stuff at our newer Chalet (what with my siblings getting married left and right and having babies and all that, we sold our old Chalet and got a much bigger one at Khiran 290 to fit our growing family). Even a weekend trip to Dubai, warranted taking x2 packs of this stuff (which was overkill, but better safe than sorry).
If for whatever reason, I happened to leave the house without any Maalox on me, regardless of how far away I’d be, I’d head home home, climb the steps to the second floor, unlock my bedroom, all just to get a strip of Maalox. If someone else was picking me up and I happened to notice that I’d forgotten to bring my Maalox, I’d get them to turn right back or if we were too far out from my home, just stop by the nearest pharmacy.
As I got older, I got tired of having to spend most of the day either attempting to ignore my heartburn or chewing tablet after tablet to decrease my heartburn. So, I made “better” choices. I cut out all the things I liked, unless I was really craving them. More importantly, I continued to avoid drinking Water. As strange as it sounds, I could drink Fanta/Shani/Pepsi/Cola/Sprite/7 Up and the like, without any issues. None of them ever exacerbated my heartburn or even caused it. Just two sips of Water though and I was flinching with pain from the growing fire in my chest.
I got married and my husband at the time didn’t believe me. He thought it was all in my head, up until I proved to him otherwise lol He had their driver take us to the bank. He was sitting up front in the passenger seat and I was sitting directly behind him. I kept telling him I needed to go back, but he kept cracking jokes and laughing it off. My heartburn got so bad that I could feel the fire coming back up. Immediately, I leaned over and proceeded to vomit all of over my husband in his crisp white Dishdasha (Traditional Arabic Male Attire). I could hear him whimper “no… no… no…” to himself, which was… hilarious!
Later on, when we went back to his home, he’d go on to tell me that he’d felt it creeping down his back, but refused to believe it. “You did that on purpose”, he accused me. Well, derrr. I’d been asking for a Divorce for quite some time now (only the Male gets to Divorce the Female over here because… Arabs) but he flat out refused. I’d moved out of his place and everything, but he was still refusing. Heck, just looking at the dude, legit gave me heartburn lol Projectile Vomiting on him was my not so passive aggressive way of showing him how I felt lol Eventually, after several years of living separately, I was finally legally divorced and free of him.
Once I ran out of my latest batch of Maalox (which I buy in bulk), I spotted this stuff. It was still Maalox and still the same “Lemon Creme” flavor, but as opposed to the chewable tablet, this stuff was liquid! It wasn’t meant to be poured into a glass of water or whatever. You just tore off the top off the sachet, popped it in your mouth and used your fingers to coax the liquid out of the sachet and into your mouth. I only picked up one box, just to try.
Not gonna’ lie, at first the texture was very… phlegmy (sorry lol gotta’ keep it 100). With use, I learned to just squeeze the sachet between my thumbs, to break up the liquid inside and make it more liquid-y (very technical terms we use here). It took some getting used to, but for a super lazy person like me, this stuff was perfect!
Unlike those chewable tablets that you had to take time to chew, this stuff was instant! Just tear and drink! Better still, because this stuff was liquid, there was no chance of it getting stuck in your teeth, unlike those chewable tablets!
The taste could be better and it just bugged me so much when the liquid would get on my fingers and make them sticky (which easily washes off with water, but sometimes I’d be in my car and I’d need to use a PocketBac or WetWipe or summat which was annoying if you go through heartburn meds as often as I do), but other than that, this stuff was great! I was a changed woman! I vowed that I was never going back to chewable tablets after dis and I never did!
During my many traipses to several local hospitals this year, I was there for something else (there’s always something lol), but mentioned my heartburn issue in passing, and the Doctor prescribed Esomep (40mg) to me. Apparently, I was supposed to pop Esomep in the morning and chase it with a tall glass of Water. I was more than a little skeptical, but I listened to this dude anyway.
Good God! It was life-changing!
I could finally drink Orange Juice for breakfast, like a normal person! Sure, I got over drinking O.J. in the A.M. after .2 seconds (it got old pretty quick) and frankly I thought O.J. was over-rated, but still, I finally had the option to freely choose! I could indulge in all the Kimchi I wanted without having to suffer for it later! I could have all the spicy food I craved and the worst that happened was that I’d get a nightmares! Not once was I woken up by the incessant need to make a mad dash to the bathroom, to worship the toilet deity! No burning fire in my chest! No nothing!
I could finally lay on my back without feeling like I was about to die! In fact, I was so excited about that, that I actually spent several hours laying on my back in bed, just watching King and The Sting Podcasts on YouTube (dis) on my Xbox. I felt like a princess lol
The true test was to see if I could drink Pineapple Juice without internally combusting. I took a small sip and… nothing! It didn’t feel like I was drinking liquid fire! In fact, it felt like the exact opposite! It was not only delicious but refreshing! I finally felt… “normal”.
My thing of Esomep (40mg) ran out, so I went to pick up another, at the pharmacy in the Al Salam Hospital. Apparently, the 40mg was out of stock, but they did have the 20mg which I wasn’t too happy about, yet bought anyway. It had the same effect, thankfully. Once it ran out, I asked our driver (who was already out on an errand) to pick up some more for me. He went to the pharmacy in Al Salam Hospital and several other pharmacies in Murqab and Hawally and Salmiya. According to him, all of them said the same thing. Esomep was no longer in production…
I was devastated! I’d finally found something that worked for me and now it was no longer being made. Like… what in the actual heck! lol I visited Al Salam to see for myself and once it was confirmed, asked for an alternative, to which I was given Nexium (we’ve come full circle lol). I went through a pack of the stuff and now I’m currently on my second pack. However, after googling it, apparently you weren’t supposed to take Nexium for more than 14 consecutive days… or something. A handful of my guy friends live on Nexium, but they’re guys and they’re locals, so their opinion is kinda’… whatever to me lol (sorrynotsorry)
So, about 4 days ago, I quit Nexium and have gone back to Maalox (sachets). How quickly we become accustomed to our new normal. It hasn’t even been that long since I last used them, but I keep opening up the sachets the wrong way now and consequentially getting this stuff all over my hands. After months of freedom, it seemed so foreign to me, to go back to stuffing my pockets with x2 sachets of Maalox lol Oh well… it was nice while it lasted!