By Stephanie Stahl

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Can you imagine not being able to eat, or even drink fluids, because you can’t swallow properly? There’s a new treatment for the problem. Health reporter Stephanie Stahl has the exclusive story on the first patient treated at Temple University Hospital.

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Maurice Christian, a young man who once played football for West Chester University, was in great shape. Then suddenly, he couldn’t eat. He lost weight. Drinking water used to cause all kinds of trouble for the 26-year-old. Food, even something like a banana, was worse.

“Everything that I ate came up,” Maurice said. “Liquids, water, you name it. Came right up.”

The former college football player usually weighs about 180 pounds, but over the past six months, he lost 60 pounds.

“A lot of times I couldn’t even make it to work,” Maurice said. “It was horrible. I don’t know what was going on.”

Maurice finally was diagnosed with achalasia, a rare condition where the muscle that separates the esophagus and the stomach gets stuck closed.

“I call it kind of ‘the trap-door muscle,'” Dr. Michael Smith at Temple University Hospital said. He says the traditional treatment is invasive surgery, or a stretching procedure. That didn’t last.

Now Temple has a new alternative, done with a scope through the mouth while under anesthesia.

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“This kind of endoscopic surgery allows us to get the result of cutting the muscle without having to put a scar or an abdominal wound in the belly,” Dr. Smith said. “We’ve restored the ability to connect the esophagus to the stomach by releasing those muscle fibers.”

Maurice was the first patient to have the procedure at Temple.

“I weigh 135 now,” Maurice said. Now he’s able to eat and drink with no issues and has already gained seven pounds in a week and a half.

“I would definitely say that I’m cured, not only physically, but mentally as well,” Maurice said.

It’s not know what causes achalasia. For Maurice, it was severe. Others can have milder symptoms.

For more information:

Gastroenterology Section at Temple University Hospital

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Stephanie Stahl