Doctor cures woman of mysterious 30-year cough

Posted at 7:44 PM, Aug 01, 2017

Having a cough can be pretty annoying. But how about coughing consistently for 30 years?

That was the case for Margaret Folsom, whose coughing fits began when Ronald Reagan was in office.

"It was in 1986 and I was at the end of my first trimester of being pregnant," Folsom said.

That was when she noticed she kept coughing but didn't have a cold. And it kept getting worse.

"I coughed 24/7," Folsom said. "And would have small intervals; if I didn't take any medication maybe have 10 to 15 minutes in between." 

Things others take for granted became nearly impossible for Folsom.

"Sleeping didn't happen for years," Folsom said. "I was removed from a flight, which was embarrassing. I could never go to a movie or play, church, anywhere in public, or go to the market.  And if I wasn't heavily medicated, people would want to call an ambulance."

She tried medication, surgeries and testing but no one could find out why she kept coughing or how to stop it. All the while, her health deteriorated. 

Then, one doctor asked if he could test her esopoghus.

"When I woke up he said, 'You're not going to believe what I found. You have stomach tissue on the top third of your esophagus,'" Folsom said.

Dr. Edward Hepworth at Presbyterian St. Luke's in Denver, Colorado removed that tissue which was producing acid and making Folsom cough. His colleague, Dr. Anthony Canfield removed other scar tissue from previous surgeries. 

"Even though she fit the pattern of usual common reflux, she did not get any benefit from the surgery or the medications because it didn't block the acid," Dr. Canfield says.

Now Folsom is looking forward doing to the things she couldn't do — and say

"I have hiked and I'm dying to paddleboard, ... For many many years I dreaded seeing people and having them say, 'How are you?' because I couldn't say 'well.' I really was ill," she said. "And when people now say 'How are you?' I just love to say, 'Excellent. I am well.'"