‘Put your health first’ | Popular radio host finds relief from swallowing problems, stomach pain

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The Tidelands Health Newsroom

Published on December 13, 2021

‘Put your health first’ | Popular radio host finds relief from swallowing problems, stomach pain

For a year, Jeff Benton bent life around his difficulty swallowing.

Jeff Benton, a sergeant with the Horry County Sheriff's Office and popular radio host on Gator 107.9, gives a thumbs up in a studio after finding relief from swallowing problems and stomach pain.The Murrells Inlet resident turned down friends’ invitations to lunch or dinner. He avoided eating while at work, then made up for it by overeating at dinner – a situation that only made his swallowing problem worse.

“Food, if it wasn’t chewed all the way, would hurt when it got down to my sternum area,” says Benton, a sergeant with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office and popular radio host on country music station Gator 107.9.

Even so, Benton kept finding reasons to put off getting checked out. He was busy, he told himself. It was probably nothing. He didn’t want to look foolish seeking care unnecessarily.

“I’ve never been a guy that liked to go to the doctor,” says Benton, 50. “I’ve always felt like I don’t want to bother somebody. I don’t want to go up there if there’s nothing wrong.”

Eventually, he began having stomach pains unrelated to the swallowing problem. Still, he put off going to the doctor.

A turning point

It all caught up with him in August when he was at dinner with wife, Wendy, for their anniversary. In the middle of dinner, he began feeling sick, and they had to leave.

He finally took Wendy’s advice and saw Tidelands Health gastroenterologist Dr. Sebastian Abadie to figure out what was happening.

To diagnose the cause of his symptoms, Benton underwent an endoscopy, colonoscopy and a specialized hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid scan to examine his liver, gall bladder and bile ducts. The results of the scan were surprising: Benton’s gall bladder was enlarged and functioning so poorly it needed to be removed. Meanwhile, the endoscopy revealed significant scar tissue in his esophagus that was causing his difficulty swallowing.

Welcome relief

Jeff Benton prepares for a scan to help determine the cause of his conditions.At the end of October, about a month before Benton underwent gall bladder surgery, he saw Dr. Abadie for a procedure to expand his esophagus and improve his ability to swallow.

Recurrent acid reflux can lead to the development of scar tissue, which can make it difficult for people to swallow, Dr. Abadie says. Recurrent acid reflux can also set the stage for esophageal cancer, among other health conditions.

By widening Benton’s esophagus and prescribing him acid-reducing medication, Dr. Abadie was able to relieve Benton’s swallowing difficulties.

“If you have any signs or symptoms that are worrisome to you, please don’t wait to be seen,” Dr. Abadie says. “It’s important to have a regular contact with your doctor because that allows us to catch diseases earlier when they are more easily and more successfully treated.”

'Put your health first'

A few weeks later, Tidelands Health general surgeon Dr. Salim Ghorra successfully removed Benton’s gall bladder through outpatient laparoscopic surgery.

Benton returned to his rigorous work schedule about 10 days later feeling much healthier and wiser about the importance of seeking medical care. He strongly encourages people to err on the side of caution and seek care if you think you may need it.

“I am one to put everyone else first. I never put myself first,” he says. “I was always a guy with an excuse to not get checked out.

“The biggest lesson I learned is you have to put your health first.”

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Tidelands Health is the region’s largest health care provider and MUSC Health affiliate, serving the Carolinas at four hospitals and more than 60 outpatient locations. More than 2,500 employee, physician and volunteer partners work side by side with our communities to transform the health of our region – promoting wellness, preventing illness, encouraging recovery and restoring health.