Tri-State Man Suffers from a Rare Throat Condition

Reporter: Shannon Samson

New Media Producer: Dave Novak

It's soup again for Phillip Stone. It's just about the only type of food he can eat these days. His troubles started when he was a teenager.

"I was eating a hamburger one night at the supper table and it just felt like it just hung in my chest. It hurt... it hurt bad. I thought I was having a heart attack," recalls Philip.

It was not a heart attack, rather it was a heart condition. An extremely rare one, his doctor told him.

"I had what he called a double aortic arch which was wrapped around my esophagus and trachea and squeezing it together and my food wasn't able to go down like it should," says Stone 

At 17, Phillip had surgery and things went well for some time. But over the last few years, and especially within the last five months, those same symptoms have returned gagging, coughing and pain when he swallows.

"Literally, I know the food is not stuck in my throat, it's somewhere down here, but if I eat a a large bite, I can feel it. It will just make me gag, like it's still in my throat and wants to come out," Philip says. 

His quest to get help has taken him Vanderbilt, the University of Alabama and most recently, the Mayo Clinic. He's heard diagnoses of an aberrant subclavian artery or a right aortic arch with Mirror Image Branching. Doctors can't agree on what it is, but they've all told him it's probably too risky to try to correct with surgery. So Phillip was sent home and told to continue eating only tiny bites of food at a time.

"If I could find a surgeon that was that good and give me a lot of confidence, I believe I would try to have something done, but then again, if I'm able to eat soup, that's not so bad. I can eat food like that," says Philip.

He says it sure beats a feeding tube, which may become a last resort for him.