Gloop Gloop Gloop

June 11, 2009

Today was a tragicomedy in two-and-a-half acts.

I think I’ve reached journeyman or maybe green-belt status in medical tests, because now I’m given far, far fewer specific directions about what I’m supposed to do and what’s going to happen. Such that “fast 12 hours” is the entire, terse explanation I’ll get and it’s left as an exercise to the faster as to what exactly that means. Can I have water? Clear liquids? Can I take my morning medications? Can I eat things with food coloring in them? Low-fat only? Fresh fruits and vegetables for the preceding days? Should I avoid NSAIDs in case they make my stomach bleed? The first time I had a colonoscopy, the instructions covered a full sheet of paper, front and back.

This week involves two fasting-related test preps, one that was “low-fat dinner; fast after midnight” and one which was “fast 12 hours.” Of course I managed to confuse the two, such that it wasn’t until David’s jaw-droppingly god-smelling pumpkin bread was in the oven last night at 9:30 that I realized that I couldn’t eat any of it, and, in fact, I hadn’t eaten in several hours, assuming I could chow down until midnight. Nope. This was the night of the 12-hour fast. So I moped and sniffed and drank a big glass of tea.

Thus pumpkin-deprived I arrived this morning at the hospital, ready for my humiliation and discomfort.

My technician, who I ended up spending just a bit too much time with, had one of my favorite female names, but I’ll her Clara because that’s a name with similar weight and context. She instructed me as to a new technique: wearing two hospital gowns. One goes on the normal, ass-exposure way and the other goes opposite, like a bathrobe that provides no warmth and can never be fastened shut. But it was still a boon to privacy.

I spent the next three and a half hours in a new, if still hospital-y, room full of Philips imaging equipment that was still recent enough to garner overawed smiles and nods from the staff. Clara was over-talky and still mildly baffled by the technical details. She had the reboot the, uh, entire room several time when lights started blinking when they shouldn’t on various devices.

“Windows,” Clara shrugged. “What are you going to do? Some people say it goes on the fritz because of that. But really, what else is there? They’ve boughten everyone else now. Right? Anyway, you know me and computers!” This last sentence being nodded toward a passing nurse. At one point, the mechanical bed part of the larger xray contraption nearly threw me into the wall. I think it pulled a couple Gs. I yelped and there were apologies.

The misery and humiliation part started when a doctor or whatever the hell (radiologist?) handed me a dixie cup full of what I believe to have been industrial-grade Pop Rocks and said “Drink in one gulp and whatever you do, don’t burp!”

“Didn’t we just tell you not to burp?”

This was followed within seconds by one of my least favorite substances, the barium meal! Whee! A warm cup full of dense, chalky, retch-inducing (I noticed a full stash of barf bags is kept on hand there), and just fully foul concoction I’ve had to deal with on many occasions. So nauseating, in fact, that I was drugged to the gills on anti-puke meds (more on this later).

“Drink up, keep drinking!” While they took internal glamor shots of my esophagus as I stood in front of a machine that had somewhat creep cream-colored flaps. Then I was summarily hastened to fling myself on the bed part (which is goddamned hard without padding) and my bony knees and hips and pelvis and shoulders were angled into some sort of useful and totally uncomfortable hunch-crouch and then they took pictures of my stomach proper that way. The way the imaging worked made me think of some sort of child’s construction toy or one of those old-school robots that retrieves the right backup tape from a big rack. Clara shoved a black rectangle about 18×20″ and maybe an inch thick into the bed of the xray machine. THUNK. Then the picture-taking. Then she took it out and went to “develop” it, which involved her inserting it into a shelf on a rack in the adjoining room. THUNK. Then it was done and the resultant picture showed up on various screens.

Then there was a lot of waiting and trying again and the gloppy stuff worked its way through my upper tubes. There were frustrated, hushed, and somewhat alarming phone conversations between Clara and some sort of equipment tech. “Stand error…again…yep, blinking…but I did press saveNo, I swear there were images…crap!”

Ultimately it was decided that I had some remaining ill karma and that I really needed to drink more barium to get things to move along already (Clara had already been asked, twice, if she was available for breaks and lunch) and so I did, like a sheep. This was unplesant but I’ll spare the details. In the end I thank my lucky anti-nausea stars.

Then another, cheerful radio-tech-doctor-whatever came in and laid me down and pressed on my tubes with a big spoonlike device until the radiation was where she wanted it. Finally, oh-jeesh-finally, I was done.

I staggered out, exhausted and slightly confused, got home, emailed my coworkers and swore that, no, really, I would work later but oh-my-jeesh I needed some sleep. All well and good but when I woke up at 5:30 or so I had the best instantiation of a “splitting” headache that I ever have. That’s how I would describe it, exactly: “splitting.” It felt like my brain was trying to escape my skull. Many know that I suffer from headaches commonly, even migraines, but this was a different sensation altogether. Advil, a cold compress and pillows on my head (we can never get our bedroom very dark), more sleeping. I didn’t get work done until almost 9:00 tonight.

Turns out my magic anti-quease drug also has a rather fun side effect of “migraine-like headaches.” Awesome!

In only about 7 hours I’ll be getting an ultrasound to see if they can find gallstones. More on that later!

Yes, I did finally get some pumpkin bread. But not without consequences. This barium glop does a number on me.

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