Medical procedures are a necessary evil. Necessary because we want to be healthy and evil because of how awkward, undignified, and sometimes painful they can be. Let me illustrate. Not too long ago, I tired of having all kinds of stomach problems and decided to go to the doctor. After the visit, he prescribed a battery of tests – the upper GI and barium enema. These tests were scheduled for the following business days – that Friday and Monday.
For the upper GI, the instructions were as usual: don’t eat anything after 8 o’clock. Fine. I can do that. I showed up for testing the next morning and was promptly led back to the waiting area where a few other victims were seated. After a few minutes, we all were shuffled back to what I’ll call the dressing room area where you actually changed into gowns that were made handy.
Very soon I’m sitting there not only holding onto my plastic bag containing my street clothes but also to my disposable haute culture which opened down the back. The tech, of whom we’ll call Ms. Too Happy for short, comes in and calls my name. Before leaving the room, I turn and pivot to save my dignity only to notice that there are these little brochures on the wall that describe what each test would entail. In my gut, I’m thinking, the upper GI seems OK, but I’m a little worried about the barium enema test – the key word obviously being “enema.” I proceed back to the testing area.
A little later I’m standing on what seems to be an upright table. Ms. Too Happy tells me this table will be let down, positioning me on my backside. Then, the x-ray part of this contraption was pulled over me. After some time, she brings me what looks like eggnog, only whiter, much thicker and having the robust taste of chalk. Its proper name is barium. After being instructed to drink, I quickly think to myself that this gunk was so thick, I’d do better chewing it. I wanted to ask for salt and ketchup but thought I’d better not. OK. Got that down. But lo’ and behold, she comes out with another cup. “Ms. Faulkner, this is another cup of the same. Just swallow when the doctor tells you.” Even though my stomach is empty, the barium is so thick that I began to feel really full and slightly sick. But OK, I’m trying to be a good sport. Swallow, stop, turn, swallow, stop, lie flat, turn on your left side, little more, swallow, stop, and on and on. This cup of goo seems bottomless! Finally, I was finished. Momma said she’d take the cup, but when I looked up, I spied another cup in her wee little hand. At this point, I could cry and throw my peas on the floor, or pinch my lips shut (I was really thinking about this one), or just tough it out.
To my relief, it was not the goo, but another liquid that tasted like a soft drink. I drank it down greedily. Anything to get that chalk taste out of my mouth. One down, one more to go, I thought when leaving. That Sunday, I followed the directions the receptionist gave me Friday. I had all clear liquids, took the pill laxative, and drank the liquid laxative. I think I lost 5 lbs.
The next day, the worst of my fears were confirmed; they would have to insert a hose through my backside (to put it kindly). Once again, I’m lying on that infernal cold table with opened hospital gown and all. The same tech comes in and proceeds to pull the x-ray machinery over me and to insert the hose. Could this be any more undignified? Oh yeah, it could be, I thought. You know how they take the newbies on rounds? Yeah, it could be just like that; you lying here with ten other people staring at your dimpled butt. That thought made me feel better about my present state. And why did they make this hose with ridges? What genius thought of that? Here comes the doctor. He’s nice. He’d better be.
Barium is being pushed into my colon through the hose. Well, I don’t have to swallow it, that’s one good thing. They take a lot of x-rays; all the while, more barium is being pushed through the hose. OK, how much could a woodchuck wood if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Translation: How much barium can one woman hold?!? Just when I was filled to the brink, Ms. Too Happy comes out and sings out, “We’ll take one more x-ray, Ms. Faulkner!” If I could speak, the things I would have said to that woman. Like, #1 don’t be cheerful when I have a hose coming out my butt, #2 how long is one more x-ray, and don’t you have enough? and #3 You people know w-a-a-a-y too much about me! But because I was frantically hanging on to the side of the table in the fetal position, I couldn’t say a word. They took one more x-ray, allowed me to go relieve myself and then I was up on the table again for several more. Afterwards, I was permitted to leave.
After all of this, I am glad to report that my stomach problems were due to stress and poor eating habits; of which, I have managed more responsibly. And in regards to these tests, as stated before, they are necessary. We need to be, especially as women, more proactive in regards to our health. Still, however, I firmly hold to the opinion that while necessary, yes, they are a tinch evil. Deep down, I suspect that there is some man somewhere, with greasy black hair, pale skin, and a thick foreign accent holding a cup of white goo in one hand and that datburn hose in the other saying, “Pain, pain, the glorious pain!”