Woman finds relief 10 years after developing 'mystery' cough

At 72, Jane Beacham loves to travel, and she's serious about it.

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"The kind of traveling I like to do is to hop off the airplane with the plugs still in my ears and hit the ground moving," Beacham said.

But more than a decade ago, Beacham began coughing and clearing her throat, constantly.

"It was embarrassing," she said.

A lung doctor listened to her symptoms and diagnosed her with asthma, prescribing a series of medications.

"I bet I went through 7 or 8 different types of inhalers," Beacham remembered.

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But nothing helped; the cough continued.

"I was just getting out of breath, getting out of the air,” she said.

Desperate, Beacham went online and found DeKalb gastroenterologist Dr. Jeffrie Kamean and his partners, who immediately suspected Beacham's problem wasn't asthma.

"I said 'How do you know I'm not an asthma patient, how do you know that,'" Beacham said.  "And he said, 'I just know, that is not an asthma cough.'"

After extensive testing, Beacham was diagnosed with "silent reflux."  She didn't have heartburn.

But during sleep, acid would leak from her stomach, up through her esophagus, pooling in the back of her throat. Kamean said that caused the irritation triggering her cough.

"So the idea is that it's at night," Kamean said.  "It's real reflux, but it's 'silent' because you're 'sleeping.'"

Put on on an acid-reducing medication, Beacham stopped coughing.


"And when she came back in two months, she said it was a miracle," Kamean said. "Her cough was gone, she was sleeping, she was ready to travel."

Earlier this year, Beacham underwent the LINX procedure, to stop the reflux.

Kamean said if you have an unexplained cough, see a lung doctor and an ear, nose and throat specialist first. Then, if you're still coughing, find a gastroenterologist willing to look deeper.

"There is still a debate in our field as to how much reflux really causes cough and sinus issues," Kamean said. "We are firm believers here at DeKalb that that is true. We've had a lot of successful surgeries here correcting reflux, and medication as well."

These days, Beacham is traveling again.

"I just got back from France," she said. "Had a great trip. Do it again in a minute. Waiting for the next one!"

This article first appeared on Fox 5 Atlanta.