Medical Tests 101: Endoscopy

geralt, 8084 images. Pixabay.com

(c) geralt, Pixabay.com

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Of all the medical tests I have ever had done – include the nerve study where they hooked me up to electrodes and shocked my nerves to see how quickly they responded – the one I absolutely dread the most is the endoscopy.

It doesn’t make any logical sense. You’re out in twilight sleep for most of the procedure. You don’t really feel or remember anything.

But I HATE them. I freak out about these more than I do about actual surgery. The reason I’m thinking about this now is that I need to make an appointment with my gastroenterologist (aka my GI doctor), and I suspect he’s going to want to do an endoscopy.

This will be my sixth one.

An endoscopy, in case you don’t know, is the opposite of a colonoscopy. A tube with a camera on the end is threaded down your throat (sounds much nicer than shoved, right?) while you’re in a twilight sleep. The doctor can see your throat, your esophagus, your stomach, and the beginning of your small intestine (aka your duodenum, a word I nearly always pronounce like J. Peterman). He or she can also take biopsies of anything that looks suspicious, or cauterize anything that needs it (like an ulcer).

You can’t eat from eight hours before the test, but if you schedule it for like 9:00am, you can just quite eating before bed and you’re good to go. I am not a morning person, but straight up, this is your best option.

You have to have someone with you to drive you home, or they won’t do the procedure. This is because of the twilight anesthesia.

At my hospital, once you’re in the room and gowned up, they usually put pre-warmed blankets on you to keep you from getting too cold (you don’t have any food in you to make energy/heat, after all). You answer a bunch of questions and then lay around, waiting for the doctor to come get you.

In theory, this should be fine. However, this is when my mega anxiety starts kicking in and I start to freak out. The longer I wait, the more I freak. At my last one, after about a half hour of waiting, I finally asked the nurse if they could give me anything to calm me the hell down. I think she could tell I was losing it because about two minutes later the doctor came and wheeled me back.

(c) TheShiv76, pixabay.com

(c) TheShiv76, pixabay.com

So they wheel you back, and in my case (again, probably because they can see the crazy in my eyes), they’re very nice and talk to you about your job or whatever to keep you (again, me) from going batshit crazy. When you get in the room, they wheel your bed to the middle. There’s a huge apparatus on the ceiling kind of hanging over you, and a big cart with the TV thing on it that will show them what the camera sees.

You have to turn on your side (always the left, in my experience. I don’t know if that’s for a reason or not). Then they spray the back of your throat with this numbing spray. It helps you feel better sooner when they’re done, but it also makes you unable to feel yourself swallowing. Just take deep breaths and try to minimize how often you swallow. Don’t be like me and try to keep swallowing over and over to see if it gets any better (it won’t) and then want to stand up and knock everybody down and run out of the room screaming.

Next, there’s this kind of plastic thing they put in your mouth. It’s like a band around your head, with a hollow circle in the middle. The circle goes between your teeth and then the band buckles, kind of like a velcro belt. This keeps you from biting down on the tube and also gives them a straight shot through your mouth.

HOWEVER. Combined with the numbing spray, this amps up my panic even more. I feel like a pig on a spit, about to be roasted, with an apple shoved it its mouth.

Yes, I know the pig is already dead. But that’s what I think of. And I’m getting all buzzy and anxious just describing it.

Again, though, luckily for me, I had told the nurse how much this makes me panic back when I was asking to be given a sedative, and so she must have clued the doctor in. He very kindly put the band part under my head and around, and then left the circle and attachment parts laying around my neck. He didn’t set it up in my mouth until I was already out.

I cannot stress this enough: find a doctor who is kind and trustworthy. It makes ALL the difference.

The twilight sleep is really the best of both worlds, anesthesia-wise. You’re out very quickly, and don’t remember much (occasionally I have a very vague memory of coughing a lot, but that’s it). And when you wake up, it’s just as easy. General anesthesia is a much different experience from which to wake up – another thing that makes me anxious. But twilight is pretty great.

Then, you wake up back in your little cubicle/room area, your family is with you, and its all over. The doctor will come talk to you and tell you what he/she found, or if you give them permission ahead of time, they’ll tell your loved one while you’re still out.

After about 20-30 minutes of chilling in the bed, the nurse will help you get up, and if you can stand, you can change into your clothes, get wheeled out, and go.

See – it’s really not that bad.

If only I could believe myself!

Have you had an endoscopy? What was your experience like?

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