Gateshead mother's life-changing treatment that allows her to eat again

A young mother from Gateshead is tasting food again after a life-changing procedure to enable her to eat and drink.

Jessica Archer had developed a condition called achalasia. It prevents people from swallowing, because the muscle at the bottom of the gullet blocks food from entering the stomach.

The 26-year-old has now become one of the first patients in the North East to undergo a groundbreaking treatment to release the muscle and allow her to regain her life.

So far, Ms Archer has been eating liquid foods such as yogurt but said she is delighted. She said: "It's made a massive difference. I feel absolutely amazing."

Ms Archer lives with her partner Adam and two boys, Harry and George. She said her condition had affected the family for years, because she was constantly fatigued and dizzy.

She had been unable to get up in the night to feed her baby, or take her older boy to and from school.

A team from across the North East was involved in Jessica's treatment. Credit: South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

She said: "It's not just my life it has impacted, it's the kids as well. They've seen me so poorly, not being able to move off the sofa for ten hours, being stuck on the tube and now we're so much more free to do a lot more things."

Ms Archer had begun using a feeding tube to get vital nutrition but the breakthrough came when she received her treatment at the end of June 2022.

She was under the care of a team of doctors from three health trusts: Gateshead, County Durham and Darlington, along with South Tees.

The treatment, which is known as the POEM procedure, involves an endoscope - a narrow flexible tube - which is inserted into the gullet through the mouth. The endoscope includes a camera which allows the surgeon to see the muscle blocking the stomach and make a precise cut.

The process is relatively non-invasive, compared with traditional surgery, and therefore carries fewer risks.

An endoscope makes a precise cut in a muscle above the stomach Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Consultant gastroenterologist Dr Jamie Barbour, who is based at Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, described it as 'exciting'.

As well as treating patients with achalasia, Dr Barbour explained that the technique is being developed for use in treating other conditions, such as early stage cancer of the oesophagus and colon.

"It's really exciting because endoscopic treatments are developing at a really fast rate and we're now able to treat patients like Jessica. It's one of the many treatments we can use not only for a condition like Jessica but other conditions such as polyps or early cancers."

A fortnight after her procedure, Ms Archer is looking forward to adding old favourites to her diet.

Anyone experiencing difficulties with swallowing is urged to see their GP.