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Instrumental music teacher Marilyn Beeson had just finished teaching her lively class of fourth and fifth graders who were preparing for their spring concert.
She was taking a drink when she felt a tickling sensation in her throat, “and then it closed up completely,“ Mrs. Beeson recalls. “I thought I was going to die in front of the kids.”
A student ran to the school nurse, who summoned paramedics. “I asked the EMTs not to use sirens so the children wouldn’t be upset,” Mrs. Beeson recalls.
A CT scan at Calvert Memorial Hospital revealed a blood vessel pressing on her esophagus, effectively blocking her throat. Mrs. Beeson was diagnosed with a serious swallowing disorder known as dysphagia lusoria. She was transferred to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where vascular surgeon Rajesh Malik, MD, and cardiac surgeon Christian Shults, MD, both with MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, took over her care.
“This is an unusual condition that requires a multidisciplinary approach,” says Dr. Shults. “And being at the Hospital Center means being able to collaborate with colleagues from different disciplines to come up with a solution."
After consulting with each other and with Mrs. Beeson and her family, the physicians performed two surgical procedures a few days apart to redirect and reposition the artery. “This approach eliminates the pressure on Mrs. Beeson’s esophagus so it won’t cause problems for her in the future,” explains Dr. Malik.
Both surgeries went well, and Mrs. Beeson felt the difference immediately. “From the time I awakened from surgery, I no longer felt any kind of rubbing sensation in my throat,” she says.
“Mrs. Beeson is recovering well, and the problem with her artery is completely resolved,” Dr. Shults says. Dr. Malik adds, “It’s great to be able to help her feel more comfortable and allow her to eat and drink without worry or fear.”
“This was a frightening thing to go through, but I trusted Dr. Shults’ and Dr. Malik’s opinions and expertise,” Mrs. Beeson says. “I feel so much gratitude to them for performing this complicated procedure so successfully.”