Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Things to Look Forward to

There seems to be a few common themes running around the blog community these days: 1) I have nothing to write about, 2) somewhat disturbing medical conditions and/or procedures, and 3) you're too young/old to know anything about [insert subject here].

Being the classy guy that I am, I've decided to go with option 2 with just a dollop of option 3.

Since so many of you out there make such a big deal of reaching a ripe old age somewhere in your twenties, I thought I'd give you a smackeral of the sort of thing you have to look forward to as your lives progress.

Several years ago, I began having pains in my left side. Not just some discomfort, mind you, but the sort of double-me-over pains such as Julius Caesar must have felt just after his good friend Brutus stopped by for the last time. A cursory doctor's examination found nothing wrong, but he mentioned that the area in question was right around where my colon is, and perhaps I should have some more tests done. He prescribed a barium X-ray. Sounds innocent enough, right? Don't Google it.

It all starts the day before. First you have to fast all day. Not a big issue. People do it all the time. Then the indignities start.

I had always heard the phrase "went through you like a dose of salts", but I can tell you that I had no idea how apropos that was. You go to your local drugstore and you buy a small bottle of clear liquid containing magnesium sulfate. The instructions, if I recall, tell you to pour half the bottle into a glass of water and drink it, which I did (salty!). I then walked the 10 steps back to my living room to watch a little TV and wait for the results.

What an idiot. If you ever have to go through this, please pick a time when you have absolutely nothing else to do for the next couple of hours. And plan to start immediately. Don't think you can wait for the next commercial. Have a book on hand. A long one. In fact, it's probably a good idea just to take the glass into the bathroom and get naked before you even drink it. Maybe you should already be sitting down. Never, ever, has anything that I've ingested had such an immediate and, um, profound effect. Why there would ever need to be two doses of this stuff in one bottle is completely beyond comprehension.

Next morning, bright and early and five pounds lighter, you go to the lab. Here the indignities continue. They lead you into a room with a large machine hovering over a hard table, have you undress and put on one of those paper gowns which is, very conveniently, open in the back. They have you lie on the table, supposedly so it's not so easy for you to see what's going on. They set up what appears to be one of those rolling IV stands next to you, and then they remove what appeared to me to be a 40-gallon bag of Pepto-Bismol from a refrigerator. Yeah, it's not only thick, gloppy and pink, it's ice cold, too. The bag is hung from the aforementioned IV stand. The nurse suggests that you turn on your left side and raise your right knee toward your chest.

I strongly suspect that what happens next is normally preceded, at the very least, by dinner and some heavy petting. In my case, it would also have to be preceded by enough alcohol to render me unconscious. I don't think I need to say any more about that.

They turn a valve on the 40-gallon bag, and you experience a sensation that I can only describe as ice cold liquid oozing into your body in the wrong direction. I don't know if it actually took hours or it just seemed like it. They must have put in enough to get way past my colon, because by the time they were done I would have sworn that I could taste the stuff (strawberry!). Let's just say that I now know how a newly-filled toothpaste tube feels. Or a water balloon. Or a sausage casing. You're feeling pressure in your abdomen right now, aren't you?

So you're lying there feeling as if cold pink goo is oozing from every orifice on your body (except for the one that you'd really like it to ooze from, which is currently clenched tighter than a submarine hatch). You think, "OK, they'll take the X-ray and then I'm done". Wrongo, Mary Lou. They take a lot of pictures. I had fewer pictures taken at my wedding. And you don't just lie there. They want pictures from every angle, so you have to twist your custard-filled body into all sorts of unnatural positions.

"Raise your right leg." *click*
"Now your left leg." *click*
"Now lie on your back." *click*
"Now roll onto your stomach." *click*
"Downward dog." *click*
"Cobra." *click*
"Now do some jumping jacks." *click*
"Allemande left and promenade!" *click*

By the end, I was pretty convinced that they were just doing this for their own amusement.

So you're done. Yay! The technician says, "Hop down and go get rid of the barium." Your look says, "Hop down?", but your mouth says, "Where's the bathrooom?". And this is the final humiliation. Remember that you're feeling like Mr. Sta-Puft and you're wearing an oversized napkin that allows you to feel the weather on the entire back side of your body, and you've now been in this condition for what feels like much of your life.

"Just go down the hall, turn left, through reception (wave at the people), turn right, go out the back door, up the alley to the street, catch a cab, go over into the next county, and there's a filling station on Route 6 that'll let you use the bathroom as long as you buy something."

To top it all off, the X-rays showed nothing out of the ordinary. No problem with the colon, no problem anywhere. My doctor ended up putting me on a bland diet for 6 weeks, at the end of which I ate deep-fried pizza with jalapenos.

About the same time, I changed from a very high-stress, on-call-24-7 job to a much more normal, enjoyable 40-hour a week job, and my abdominal pains magically disappeared.

So once again, I recommend the following if you're having some sort of unaccounted-for symptom: 1) Don't Google it and 2) relax, take some time off, change jobs, hit something, relieve some stress some way. You may find that you don't need to be bloated and irradiated.

I may have one last medical adventure to publish at some point in the future, but it's even more embarrassing than this one, so I have yet to convince myself to do it.


Shannon said...

I had to chug a glass of barium once for a stomach X-ray...this was 20 years ago, and the thought still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

And, yeah, I get the giggles whenever I read a blog about how, "ooooh, I'm 25, I'm so old, I should be sorted by now....eeee!" Snort. At 31, I know that I know very little.

Gilahi said...

You got to drink it? No matter how bad it tasted, that would have been preferable to the administration I had to go through. And wow, you were only 11 years old at the time. Yeesh.

I'll be 51 in a couple of days. Every day I know less. And as Lily Tomlin said, "No matter how jaded I get, I just can't keep up."

lacochran's evil twin said...


Although, I do love a good square dance.

Gilahi said...

evil - Yeah, that's why I went, for the social interaction of a good hoedown. Turns out I'm not much of a dancer.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Excellent post! Whenever I read some 20-something lamenting their arrival at the quarter century mark, I think "I'd love to be 25 again." Based on the writing of young people, you'd think 30 was a death sentence. I loved 30. I want to post comments on their blog akin to "Try 40 sweetums." I have aches and pains now that, frankly, I don't think I should have at this young age. If I feel like crap at 40, what will 50 be like? Having pondered that and realizing I don't want to feel this way, I'm doing something about it rather than just gritching.

So, to all the young people out there who think they're approaching death's door at 25 and who think those of us in our 40s are headed to pasture, get over yourselves. Life is just starting and really getting good. Shut up your whining and start living with gusto informed by a little experience and wisdom.

Geez. Obviously I have an opinion, eh?

Gilahi said...

J.M. - Thanks! I too have developed the odd ache and pain (which I chronicle here because my wife is tired of hearing about it), but I don't think I feel much different at 50 than I did at 40. Maybe you sled downhill pretty precipitously at 30 and then level out for the rest of your life. One can hope.

The DC Feed Editor said...

A great post! I have linked to this at The DC Feed.

Gilahi said...

Thanks! Wish I had come up with that title....

GreenCanary said...

Be happy you're not a woman... Any abdominal pain you experience results in a pelvic exam. I once ended up in the ER for appendix-like pains and you know what happened? Feet in stirrups, baby. Nothing like having the entire staff of an ER taking a gander at your insides. Like you said, dinner and some heavy petting should preface an interaction like that.

Gilahi said...

canary - You women have to go through so many things that would have guys whimpering in a fetal position in a corner somewhere. Stirrups are just one item on a long, long list of reasons that I'm glad I'm not a female.

Kate said...

Gilahi, I think I've lied about stomach pain in the past in order to AVOID the humilation and horror of the barium enema. Had my gallbladder out instead. Ha! And Canary's got it absolutely right. Every pain ends up in a pelvic exam. When I went to the Health Center (affectionately called the Death Center) on campus in college? They wouldn't do ANYTHING to you until you took a pregnancy test. The injustice. Serious injustice.

Gilahi said...

Kate - I did mention a long list of reasons that I'm glad I have a Y chromosome.

I'm surprised at how many people have had this sort of issue early in life. I was told that gallbladder stuff happened to people who were "fat, female and forty", but most of the women that I know who've had gallbladder issues were neither fat nor forty.

Lucy said...

Too funny. And so true. I've have two of those charmers and I gotta say.....there better be a dang good reason to have another because I've already made up my mind there will never be a third one. Your post reminded me of every single moment. Not pleasurably, you understand.

Gilahi said...

Lucy - Glad I could help you reminisce. Ah, the good times.


Add to Technorati Favorites