Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tummy Troubles

I have been having difficulties with my digestive system for quite some time now. Everything from a mildly sour stomach all the way up to uncomfortable and worrisome situations. I have some sort of discomfort almost every day and it hits somewhere between my collarbone to below my stomach. Sometimes Gas-X takes care of it, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes eating helps. Sometimes eating makes it worse. There is no rhyme or reason based on what I eat as to what reaction I get but I do know two things: If I overeat, that's bad and artificial sweeteners seem to have had a role in part of this (I stopped using them and it relieved some of my intestinal difficulties).

I finally got tired of it and talked to my doctor last week. On Tuesday I had an esophagram. You lie on your side, drink barium (think liquid chalk the consistency of wet concrete) for contrast and they take x-rays. I have had them done before and it is how we discovered, several years ago, that I have a hiatal hernia. But we're not stopping there this time.

Tomorrow morning, I get to have an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (just say EGD). Basically, they're going to send an endoscope (a fiber-optic camera inside a long, thin tube) down my esophagus and have a look around. And it's making me nervous.

I'm not concerned about what they might find. I have found many times in my life that, medically, if you can name it, you can treat it. I'm not even worried about the possible (mild) complications from the procedure such as a sore throat. But somewhere in the upper part of my list of top ten ways I don't want to die is asphyxiation of one sort or another and the thought of having a tube stuck down my throat that is not necessarily easily extracted is disquieting.

The rational part of my brain is telling me that the endoscope is smaller than most chunks of food I swallow, the procedure doesn't block the airway, it's a fairly common and simple procedure, and I'll be under sedation. The irrational part of my brain, however, is telling me that I'm going to have a long, solid object blocking part of my throat and that I should be very very nervous about that.

This is something I have not told anyone, but in the past year there have been two instances where a piece of biscuit has lodged itself in my throat because of some difficulties in swallowing (another symptom/reason for having this done) and has cut off my air supply. If you've never had anything like that happen, let me tell you it is scary as shit! You see on TV where they're gasping and coughing and that's a load of crap. You can't do anything! You can't breathe in, you can't breathe out, you can't make a sound. The first time it happened I was in the car driving to Oklahoma city by myself. Luckily all I had to do was lean forward a little and the flake fell forward in my mouth. The second time I was at home and my wife was sitting next to me. Actually swallowing the bite of food corrected it that time. But it is for this reason that I no longer get the breakfast biscuit. I opt for the croissant.

Do you now understand why I'm nervous about having a foreign object, especially a rather long one, stuck down my gullet? I just hope I'm sedated before they ask me to swallow the damn thing or they may never get it down. (It's the same sedative used in a colonoscopy. You're actually awake for the entire procedure but you don't remember a damn thing. Basically I'm gonna get ruffied.)

I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: I slept through the whole thing. Friday after 11:30am is a blur. I have some damage @ the base of my esophagus that is most likely Barrett's but I'll have to wait for the results of the biopsy to be sure.

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