After my recent adventures in twisty colon land I nipped off to hospital today for a follow-up gastroscopy. I wasn’t nervous as I could barely remember having it done before. There was something about a throat spray but the rest of it was a blank. This, as it turns out, was because I was sedated.
Into the slightly darkened room again with three staff members, one of whom kept telling me I would be ‘safe’ and to remember to ‘breathe’. This always makes me smirk unbecomingly. As though you are suddenly going to forget and have to quickly check up on it via a manual. In and Out. Yeah well not only was the smirk wiped from my face but at one point I think I did forget how to breathe.
‘This is really quite unpleasant,’ said the doctor spraying the throat number into my mouth, which started a prickle of apprehension. It tasted fleetingly of banana and then more of Bhopal – a stinging chemical vapour that numbed my throat and made swallowing really hard.
The thing is, any admittance of unpleasantness in a medical procedure can usually be multiplied to the power of 100 000. Like the consultant during my second stage of labour who said sympathetically, ‘Is it a bit uncomfortable?’
I curled up on my side while a plastic mouth guard held my mouth wide open. ‘Shut your eyes.’ the nurse said hurridly, which I did but not before getting a glimpse of the endoscope, a long flexible tube with a bright light at the top. I kept my eyes shut and the endoscope slid into my mouth and down my throat. ‘Swallow!’ said the nurse and two pairs of hands patted me. ‘Deep breathing,’ she murmured.
It was filling my throat and poking round my stomach. It was very uncomfortable. I struggled to breathe calmly but kept thinking of waterboarding and rock stars choking on vomit. Seconds dragged by and I could feel this ugly poking sensation. Choking and poking. The urge to gag rose up wildly. Sweat broke out on my forehead. The doctor was talking about biopsies. ‘Do you want to go further?’ ‘No you do it – I’ll monitor blood pressure.’ ‘Are you sure?’
Suddenly I couldn’t bear it a second more. I squeezed the nurse’s hand. ‘That’s right as hard as you like,’ she said soothingly so I kicked the end of the bed. ‘Ok we’re going to stop. Any second.’ They weren’t stopping and I began to panic. I kicked the bed again. ‘Stopping now.’ I tried to grab the endoscope myself and the nurse took my hand firmly. The second it was out I jerked upright and heaved into a bowl.
They were all very kind and the nurse later admitted that during her own endoscopy that she had lasted ‘five seconds’ before she grabbed the endoscope and yanked it out herself. The doctor had managed to get a nice full colour photo of my chronic ulcer.
So I’ll have to come back again for a biopsy. And this time I’m going to be sedated to the max.