August 27, 2009

Further testing

Wednesday, I had my second battery of tests related to my acid reflux. One was really unpleasant, the other I slept through.

I arrived at the hospital at around 11:45am. I was instructed not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before. As the tests were going to last until 3:00, I thought I'd be starving by that time, but skipping a few meals wasn't as much of a problem as I thought. It was mostly resisting the habit of reaching for a glass of water at my desk that morning.

After a few more rounds of paperwork, they took me into a prep/recovery room to clue me in to what the tests would entail. One of the nurses placed an IV tap into a vein in my right hand. She joked that she had just started, but was confident she knew what she was doing. Once the spigot was set up, they walked me through the procedures before walking me down the hall for the first test.

The first test is called an Esophageal Manometry. My understanding is it is a further test of the muscular action of the esophagus to see if it is properly moving food down toward the stomach. The nurse had me sniff some numbing gel in either nostril to help mute the discomfort. Apparently she had been through the procedure herself, so she knew what I was about to go through. She said the gel was important. It didn't end up being enough.

For the test, the nurse feeds a long tube shaped sensor into one of your nostrils, through your sinuses to the back of your throat, and down your esophagus. From what I have since read online, it may have gone as far as my stomach. After letting the gel do its magic, she tried feeding the sensor through my left nostril. She had it partway through my sinuses, but it was getting painful, so she tried the right nostril. She couldn't even get it started, so it was back to the left side.

It was a uncomfortable, stinging sensation as she made her way through. She kept asking if she had reached the back of my throat. Then it felt as though she had painfully broken through a barrier and the throat was reached. She then had me tilt my head down and start swallowing water repeatedly, using the swallowing motion to move the sensor down the esophagus. The procedure really engages the gag reflex, and I am sure this is why I had to abstain from eating. We were both dressed in smocks and her face was covered with a shield in case I tried to throw up what wasn't there.

Once the sensor was in, she had me lie on my back. I was then required to swallow small bits of water, and the probe would monitor the swallowing action. The stuff I have since read online says the patient eventually gets used to the probe, but I felt like I was trying not to choke for most of the procedure. Drinking while on your back only made the choking feeling veer toward the added feeling of drowning.

The first few attempts were invalid because I was swallowing twice, once to get the water to the back of my throat and the second to actually swallow. I finally did it correctly, and then I had to remain still for 30 seconds, breathing easily, as the water made its way down. Then she said "we only have to do that 11 more times!" Not what I wanted to hear. There were a few other misfires, but it seemed there were more than 12 successful attempts recorded. The test went on far too long.

As I mentioned, I haven't been sleeping well for a few weeks. I was physically and emotionally strung out, and the testing was pushing me to the brink. As the test progressed, my emotions rose and tears ran down my face. I was laying prone, hands by my side, and instructed to stay still, so there was nothing I could do but let them fall. Like most anyone else, when I get emotional I get a lump in my throat and it makes it a little harder to breathe. This on top of the probe in my throat made it extremely difficult to remain calm and still. I don't know how long the test took, but it seemed like an eternity. When they finally finished, and removed the probe (quickly and painfully), I broke down.

The poor nurses were left to try and console me, and I couldn't even explain what was going on. One of them stayed with me for ten minutes while I calmed down. Once I gathered my wits, I was taken to another room for the next test.

The rest of the day was much less dramatic. To be continued...


matt said...

Oh man, I am so sorry to hear that. It sounds awful. I think if someone came at me with a tube-through-the-nose-down-to-the-stomach procedure they would have to restrain me . . . .

Holly Linden said...

OH Sean, that broke my heart. I'm so sorry you had to go through that, and I hope to God it's worth it.

Holly Linden said...

This melt down you had Sir, was not just from an incredibly unpleasant, and painful procedure ( as if that weren't enough - it made me feel very closed in and tense just reading about it ). It was stress leaving your body. All the stresses of late that you have bottled up inside chose that vulnerable moment when you had no choice as a venue to let themselves out.

Me said...

I second everything Holly said in each comment.