First I would like to complain to you that when I went to my barium swallow test, I forgot my cell phone at home. This meant two things:
1. I could not see if there were any Pokéstops at the hospital.
2. I could not proceed with my original plan, which was to stay in the city after the test and go over to the mall and have lunch and browse Target and maybe get a few Pokéstops. (Without my cell phone, I fret about the statistically-small chance that the school will call about a sick kid or something. Also, without my phone I can’t get the Pokéstops.)
On to the test itself. I was partly worried about how long it would take: when Edward gets his MRI, we are at the hospital for hours and hours and hours; last time it was five-and-a-half hours. Part of it is the time the actual prep and test take, but part of it is that hospitals seem to be in a different dimension of time and space, and the hours pass without any particular concern for their passing. And of course sometimes at a hospital there are emergencies that mean routine appointments get bumped, as well they should.
Anyway, when the lady from the scheduling department called to set up my appointment, I asked her how long the whole thing would take, and she said, “Oh, 15-20 minutes.” I thought, “AH HA HA HA HA HA okay, fine, DON’T tell me if you don’t want to!” But from the moment I walked into the hospital (half an hour fretfully early) to the moment I walked out again was 45 minutes total. The time from “changed into johnny and waiting for doctor” to “changing out of johnny” was less than 15 minutes. Most of the time was spent in waiting rooms, because I was half an hour early. So it was not very long between thinking “Soon I will be one of these carefree individuals on their way OUT of this waiting room” to being in fact one of those carefree individuals.
Let’s rewind to where I am walking into the hospital. I’d been told not to eat or drink anything after 10:00 the night before, so I was feeling a bit grim: first Monday of Daylight Saving Time AND no coffee. I’d been told to go straight to Diagnostic Imaging, and so I did. There they checked me in and gave me a hospital bracelet, and instructed me to walk over to X-ray.
At X-ray, they had me undress just from the waist up, and put on two johnnies: one opening in the back and a second one opening in the front. (I didn’t have to remove those johnnies at any point during the exam.) All my stuff went into a little locker. A technician brought me into the x-ray room and showed me basically how things would go: she stood where I’d be standing and described the various things the doctor would ask me to do. She showed me a barium tablet that the doctor would have me swallow to see how a pill went down. I asked if most people did fine with the whole thing and she said, “Oh, yes!” and that hardly anyone had trouble—it was just a bit icky to have to drink the drink, she said. She also told me that “it goes in white, and it comes out white—so don’t be alarmed later!”
The doctor came in and had me stand up on a little step, standing in front of what turned out to be an x-ray table turned up on its end. He moved a machine in front of me, so I was sort of snugged into a little nook. He handed me a plastic cup of the barium and told me to get ready to drink it but not drink it yet. Then he had me turn partly to one side and then partly to the other, each time drinking the barium until he said to stop—maybe 7 or 8 seconds each time? Then I had to face forward and drink again. Then he had me swallow the barium tablet and drink again.
I didn’t find the barium particularly gross, but it helped to go into it EXPECTING it to be fairly gross. It was very bland, and tasted faintly like strawberries. It was about the thickness of…well, the technician said milkshake, but milkshakes are such a different TYPE of thickness: cold and crystally and melty. It reminded me more of yogurt thinned with milk (but with no yogurt flavor). I tried to pretend it WAS yogurt, to help me drink it.
The doctor had me turn to my side, and then he lowered the table, which was how I came to realize it was an x-ray table on-end. (The technician had not mentioned this part.) It was an odd sensation: like you’re standing against a wall, and then the wall just lies down and takes you with it. The technician gave me a pillow. The doctor had me drink more barium, through a straw this time, while lying on my side. This was the worst part for me: something about lying on my side, plus this was my second full cup of the barium. (They weren’t forcing me to drink that much: that was just how much I was naturally going through during the swallowing tests. Possibly I was drinking it too fast—but I wasn’t gulping it down or anything.) In the last few seconds, I gagged—but just once, and then the test was done anyway. I continued pretending it was a nice nutritious smoothie and not at all making me queasy—but I did feel slightly queasy. I think it was more mental than physical.
The doctor left, and the technician brought me back to the changing area—and then it was done. I stopped on the way home and got a large coffee and a sausage-egg-and-cheese bagel sandwich, and felt so much better. The sweet, sweet relief of coffee is well worth the occasional pain of being a little dependent on it.
Overall, I would say that most of the fretting could be assigned to the Newness, as opposed to the actual procedure. If I had to do the same test again, I would be only very mildly anxious about it: maybe a 1 or 2 on a scale of 10, and most of that would be the nervousness that comes from not being sure I’m following directions correctly, combined with worrying about what they’ll find. LESS anxious than, say, a routine physical where I have to step on a scale, take off the johnny, talk about exercise and alcohol, discuss how many years I have left before they start suggesting colonoscopies, etc.