Sunday, February 08, 2009

I had an upper GI endoscopy this week. I’ve been having problems with heartburn that was waking me up at night. I started with the OTC stuff (Maalox, Tums, Prilosec), and sleeping upright in bed. I cut way back on coffee and wine (sob). After about a week of that I decided that sleeping in a sitting position because of heartburn was probably a sign that something was wrong. Body to Brewgal: HINT! I’M HINTING HERE! So I went to my doctor, who gave me a sample of Prevacid. Night and day. After about three days I was no longer having pain or waking up. However, when the sample ran out, the heartburn came back. In a big way. Pain in the stomach and across my chest. Ow ow ow. The kind of pain that makes you think, should I be going to the hospital right now? Back to the doctor, who referred me to a GI specialist.

The endoscopy was to check for malignancies and other problems such as Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s is a condition that occurs when the cells of the esophagus change as a result of long term exposure to acid from the stomach. When the doctor described the procedure to me in the office, he showed me vivid pictures of the path the camera would take, down my throat and into the lower part of my intestines. I expressed some (ok, a lot) of trepidation. No problem, he said, you’ll be asleep for the procedure.

I want to believe doctors when they say things like that. I also want to believe dentists when they say things such as, “I’ll be comfortable,” and “let me know if this hurts.”

Imagine my surprise when I got home and started reading the pre-op material. “You’ll be given a sedative to relax you,” the document said, “and the doctor will spray a numbing agent in your throat to suppress your gag reflex.”

Where was the sleeping part? I want the sleeping part! I don’t want to be awake while a lighted scope is shoved down into my stomach!

When I arrived for my appointment I pointed this out to the receptionist who said, “Hey, I’ve never seen that part before.” Not good. Not good at all. She assured me that whatever the pre-op materials said, the anesthesiologist used Propofol and I would be asleep.

Then there is the waiting. First, the waiting room. Reading year-old magazines in the waiting room does nothing to take one’s mind off the fact that you haven’t had anything to eat or drink for 12 hours. Then, the pre-op area waiting. You’re hooked up to an IV, a blood-pressure cuff and a temperature/O2 finger sensor. The best part? The rest of the pre-op room was filled with patients awaiting colonoscopies farting their heads off. I felt like I was surrounded with whoopee cushions.

I got a brief visit from the nurse, the anesthesiologist and my physician. Then they wheeled me into the operating room. I was asked to turn on my left side, a big pillow was shoved under my back, and a plastic insert was placed in my mouth to prevent me from biting the camera. Because we all know if I was awake, I would have chewed right through that camera. So here I am, laying on one side, a plastic insert in my mouth, staring straight at the TV screen that is hooked up to the camera, and I’m thinking, “um, I’m still awake here.” I can hear the anesthesiologist behind me saying, “I’m introducing the anesthesia now,” and I start staring at the TV screen thinking to myself, “maybe if I keep looking at the screen they’ll see I’m still awake, because if I’m…”


I’m dreaming I’m on the couch watching TV and I wake up in recovery where I get two very cute little cans of apple juice and some animal crackers. Aside from 10 minutes of coughing, I have no ill effects. My physician stops by to tell me I have mild gastritis and a small hiatal hernia, which is probably the cause of the acid reflux. The big bummer is being told I can’t have any alcohol for 24 hours, because I think having a nice glass of wine is good post-op therapy. Brewguy drives me home where I go back to work because I am a crazy person.

I have to say everyone at the endoscopy center was very kind and reassuring. As outpatient procedures go, this was remarkably easy.
Just think, in seven years I get to go back for my very own colonoscopy!

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