I can look after the family when they are ill – their bumps and cuts and sickness – I’ve hardly winced when the kids have cuddled on my lap and thrown up all over me. Yet my own body is a different matter.
I have a high pain threshold and can deal with most things, as long as I don’t look. When giving blood it’s a case of here’s my arm, I don’t want to see what you’re doing though.
My husband loves to see stuff like that and he will happily inspect a cut. My son’s the same. When I was putting the lid on a glass jar, it broke and sliced my hand. They were both inspecting it and had to come and watch the nurse stitch me up. Whereas I could not bear to look.
As I’ve got older I feel more vulnerable. Anaesthetic makes me shaky and things tend to knock me for six more easily. I also seem to have reactions to medications now.
Recently I had to go for a Gastroscopy. This is where they stick a tube the size of a fat finger down your throat and poke about in your stomach and intestine. They pump some air into your belly so they can see and take samples if needed.
Well, as someone who has large tonsils and can hardly swallow pills, I was pretty nervous and not looking forward to this at all. Food was getting stuck in my throat on it’s way down into my stomach and they needed to see why, so I couldn’t avoid it.
I met a friend for lunch the week before who told me she’d had it done and it was horrible and painful when they pumped your tummy. Gee thanks friend!
I’d decided not to have sedation as there are risks involved with that and it meant I’d have to hang about in hospital most of the day – a place that had bad memories for me and where I least wanted to be. So I opted for the throat spray.
On the day of the procedure, I was so nervous I put my top on back to front. Then as I walked into the hospital the lovely smell of coffee and food wafted over me, when I’d been nil by mouth since the night before and desperate for a coffee fix.
I arrived in the waiting room to find it packed. As I waited I read the TV monitor and saw the three consultants that were on that day. One was called Mr Wingzou Wong and I just knew I was going to get him. I tried to read a book to take my mind off things during the long wait, but couldn’t concentrate and after about an hour past my appointment time I was called through by a student who could hardly speak English. Great! I did get my own back on him when he asked me if I was hard of hearing and I said ‘Pardon?’ Well I thought it was funny at the time, in my state of nervousness as the other nurse described what was going to happen.
Another wait and the fish tank that bubbled in the waiting room, did not calm my nerves. Reading the leaflet a week earlier had made me gag and now I was going to have to get that thing down my throat. Then I was called through.
Phew it wasn’t Mr Wingzou Wong, but a nice lady who asked me about my weight loss. I wish! I panicked – they’ve got the wrong woman, what are they going to do to me. I hadn’t lost any weight, my food was getting stuck that’s all. We cleared that up and she put the spray down my throat. It tasted of bananas, mixed with mould and after notes of fish. I made it clear that I did not want to see the inside of my stomach on the monitor and they turned it around. Then after they put me in the recovery position the tube came out.
I took one look at the big black snake of a thing and the realisation that I had to swallow that caused me to panic. I went hot and shaky and couldn’t breath. I flailed my arms around and they took the mouthpiece out from my teeth and tried to calm me down with deep breaths and before I knew it, they’d put the mouthpiece back in and started inserting the tube.
The nurse held me still while this alien crawled inside my body. I thought of Sigourney Weaver and felt such empathy with her as I retched over and over and then it was in. The consultant seem to think I wanted a blow by blow about her journey through my stomach and down into my intestine and I tried to drown out her voice and concentrate on my breathing. I felt a little twirling of a drill down my oesophagus as they took the biopsies. Well I guess that’s what they were doing, as I heard her orders of ‘open’ and ‘close’ a couple of times. Then she said ‘we’re on the way up now’. The alien was coming out and couldn’t be fast enough as I tried to stifle a cough, and suddenly it was over.
I’d done a really good Homer drool all over the pillow and tried to ignore the specs of blood as I wiped my mouth. Good news – there was nothing untoward to worry about and nothing that a course of antibiotics couldn’t resolve. Although I believed it was a course of antibiotic tablets I’d previously taken, that had caused the inflammation in the first place.
More waiting and I’d promised myself a cappuccino and ham and cheese toastie treat in the hospital coffee shop once it was all over. Eventually I was good to go after they’d checked I could swallow and I’d waited for the spray to wear off, so I didn’t burn my throat with hot drinks. I hadn’t felt any pain, nor them pumping air into my belly, but as I stood in the queue I could hear little bubbles gurgling away in my gut. The coffee shop queue was not the place for an explosion and I had to contain myself. Luckily I quietly burped my way through my toastie and left without embarrassing myself.
That night I woke in a hot sweat and every time I tried to go back to sleep I kept seeing the black tube and reliving the whole thing. It took a couple of days to shake it off, but I’m fine now and things could have turned out worse. Now I feel that should I ever be asked to act in a science fiction movie, I have the tools to do a good job on the alien entering the body scene!
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