Knock, knock. Who’s there? Barry? Barry, um, in, um, uh?

17 Jul
Confirmation that it's bad: this e-card already existed.

Confirmation that it’s bad: this e-card already existed.

If your day started out as expected and didn’t take a sideways turn when someone surprised you by putting a tube up your ass, I think you can consider it a banner day.

Just, WOW.

Let me back up… This morning I went to the hospital for a CT scan that was scheduled weeks ago, when symptoms led my doctor to believe my intestines might be nearing the point of explosion.

(In case you’re curious, those symptoms are: sustained high fever, stabbing appendicitis-like pains, overall body aches, nausea, and either projectile-vomiting or diabolic diarrhea. So basically, either a Crohn’s flare or the flu.)

To make sure my disease hasn’t progressed to the point of needing surgery, a CT scan was ordered. I was stoked that a colonoscopy wasn’t needed. What’s that saying about asses and assumptions?

This morning I showed up, woefully ill-prepared for what awaited me. I should’ve realized – after handing the receptionist my doctor’s order – that I was in for something special. She looked at it, then turned to a scrubbed up technician walking past the desk to ask, “Have you seen one of these before?”

Not a good sign. He looked at it, then looked up at me, then back at the paper. A doubly-bad sign.

After they whispered for a bit, I was shown back to his office and given two gowns to change into. TWO. Another bad sign.

When I emerged from the dressing room, he said, “OK. I’m going to have you sit right here in my office so I can keep an eye on you. Do you know anything about this procedure?”

Also known as "Radioactive Milk."

Also known as “Radioactive Milk.”

Apparently I did not. The nutshell: I had to drink a 1/2 liter of Volumen (basically a Barium suspension) every 15 minutes for 45 minutes, then hop on the scanner table and roll to my side so they could give me a Barium enema – then squeeze my cheeks while they slid me into the scanner for photos.

Wait. A. Minute. No one warmed me that I’d be getting an ENEMA.

While the idea of a tube jammed up your ass is disconcerting when suddenly sprung on you, the more immediate concerns are: Is there any chance I need to GO to the bathroom? How robust was my toilet paper this morning? Might I accidentally poop on this stranger?

It’s not a great place to be. I said, “Hold up. I can’t believe no one prepped me for this. Do you always get stuck breaking the news?” He shrugged and gave a “what can you do?” look.

“Boy,” I said. “Seems like you get stuck with all the fun stuff.” He cringed and nodded. I had to go out of my way to not use the word “shocker,” because I didn’t want him getting any ideas when he flipped me to insert the tube.

“Well,” I continued. “I’m sorry in advance. For both of us.”

He nodded before he caught himself. Then he tried to save it by saying, “It’s not so bad. I could be in the ER. At least you’re a walkie-talkie.”

“Walkie-talkie?” I asked.

“You’re walking and talking,” he explained. “In the ER, most people don’t have insurance, so they’re homeless or indigent. They aren’t always conscious and they don’t shower often.”

Perfect. That made me feel a bit better. I was pretty sure I could stack up favorably compared to a homeless person. But then again, no guarantees.

When he handed me the first bottle of Volumen to drink, he asked if I’d like a straw. I shook my head, screwed off the lid, and chugged it without pausing for air. I think he was mildly intimidated when I passed the empty back to him. Probably for many reasons. At this point, I began imagining myself played by Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids, in the screenplay of my life.

During this 15 minute interlude, he attached an IV to my arm so they could push the contrast dye into my veins easily once I was on the table. To make small talk while he did this, he asked me my age. Turns out we were only a month apart.

I’m here to tell you: the only thing worse than learning that a stranger is going to give you an enema, is learning that he is pretty much your age. Because you can imagine the happy hour he’s going to have, when he tells his friends about the unexpected procedure he had to conduct, and the otherwise professional woman who shat herself on his table.

I tried to block that image and instead chugged the next bit of Volumen.

Around this time, he started to get nervous about the timing. The last bottle of Volumen needed to be consumed in two drinks, with the barium enema occurring in between, and the dye injection happening after. He was using his smartphone to set timers for everything. “Just me,” I asked, “Or is this a bit of a circus?”

He nodded. “We don’t do this that often, so it’s a lot to coordinate.”

We moved to the CT Scan machine and he consulted his phone. “OK. Time to step out of your panties and lie on the table.”

How about you don’t use the word panties during a medical procedure? I thought.

Silently, I complied. I settled in on the table, knees propped over a pillow. And then he said, “OK – roll to your left.”

Before I did, I said, “In case you wonder what’s going through someone’s head at this moment, I think you should know. I am praying I don’t shit on your machine.”

He nodded solemnly and said, “I appreciate that.”

I rolled over. Tube inserted. My bowels filled with barium and the feeling was similar to when I flushed a toilet in Australia and saw everything swirl in the reverse direction.

It was go-time. I performed. And I did not ruin the machine.

Is it wrong to high-five a technician when you bolt out of the office? If it is, I don’t want to be right.

And that was my hump day. How was YOURS?

Seriously. They sell this shirt on Zazzle.

Seriously. They sell this shirt on Zazzle.

22 Responses to “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Barry? Barry, um, in, um, uh?”

  1. tkayw July 17, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    Ok, I’ve never had an enema, barium or no. The opportunity to shit all over the place is awesome only if one gets to choose the venue. Like, perhaps, your bosses desk or an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/spouses bed. Shitting in front of a stranger? Wasted opportunity.

    I lol’d at “let me back up…” Inadvertantly funny, fo shizzle, right?

    • pithypants July 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

      Thanks for swinging by – and pointing out that I didn’t really blow an opportunity today. I mean, I was feeling like I’d nailed my performance on the table, but I’m sure at some point my mind would’ve started rethinking the chain of events and I would’ve been kicking myself for NOT seizing the day. Thanks for helping me head that off at the pass. Whew.

      • tkayw July 31, 2013 at 9:40 am #

        I like your blog, so I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award! Go here to see the details!

      • pithypants August 9, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

        Thanks for the nomination, but I think it’s only fair to disclose that I’m *horrible* about responding to these things… mainly because they require writing and I’m already knee-deep in the hole on that. But don’t let my sluggish response undercut my appreciation. Seriously – thanks for reading me!

  2. Orange (a/k/a David) July 17, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    So, if you had to go through, say, an airport scanner, would someone see the layout of your intestines?

    • pithypants July 17, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

      Doh! I think I missed an opportunity to eff with the TSA. Next time, I’m hopping the metro straight to DCA. And I’m going to swallow a key en route just to make things interesting!

  3. Talicha J. July 17, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Wow, crazy hump day! sounds like a very, um, interesting experience you had. You’re writing was amazing. I laughed and rather enjoyed it. I do hope all is well with you though 🙂

    • pithypants July 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      I wish I could take credit for good writing – but as they say, truth is stranger than fiction!

  4. carriesjourney612 July 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    Thanks for the laugh! I hope you feel better soon! 🙂 xo

    • pithypants July 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      Thanks! Glad I can entertain. Though I REALLY wish my technician had a blog I could read, because I’d love to hear his side of events.

  5. Kimberly Pugliano (@GisSilent) July 18, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Wait until you have a colonoscopy. I’m not saying it’s worse. It’s just drinking this nasty-ass shit all night and then pooping water for hours. The water just sprayed out of my ass. I was shocked. Then when the anesthesiologist told me it was all over (I understand, Michael Jackson), I told him I loved him. That’s kinda like a high-five, right?

    • pithypants July 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      Oh Kim – it’s like you don’t even KNOW me!? I’ve had TWO colonoscopies in the last year. During my first one, I woke up – and sat up – mid-procedure to say, “Should I be awake?” And yes – the prep is THE WORST. THE WORST. I think GoLytely would be more effective than waterboarding prisoners.

  6. dianeskitchentable July 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Aw now that really sucks & not just the procedure but walking in on it without any forewarning. I didn’t have the enema part of it but I had to do the barium swallow & then they tracked it with the CT scan. Now what they didn’t tell me was what was going to happen once I got home….to my own toilet! After spending an afternoon getting rid of that stuff I realized that after flushing there was this pile of white – I don’t know ‘stuff’ piling up in the bowl that wasn’t flushing. Then it hit me – a big pile of barium, probably radioactive sitting there. Out to the store for super heavy duty rubber gloves & a scoop plus bucket then scooped & quadruple bagged it & sneaked it off with the rest of the trash at the dump.

    • pithypants July 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

      And this is why all humans should build an emergency toilet using a bucket and a bag of kitty litter. (Did I just SAY that???)

      • dianeskitchentable July 20, 2013 at 9:32 am #

        Yes you did and I’m thinking it’s a great idea. That would definitely have solved the problem.

  7. thesinglecell July 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Most delightful blog post about ass-tubing ever.
    I’m sorry your flare-up was so brutal. Rick, turns out, might have this condition now. Apparently it’s the “in” disease this year.

  8. Kevin August 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    This post is so great! I can’t believe I didn’t see it until now! LOL. I’m loving it and I am seriously laughing out loud. And don’t worry….at our age I don’t the tech went out to happy hour so your ass sorry is safe (besides your loyal blog readers!!). Great story!

    • pithypants August 13, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

      Thanks, Kevin. I’m not sure what the tech does on a NORMAL night, but I’d wager that after inserting a tube up a stranger’s ass, he went to happy hour. Just to blow off steam, so to speak.

      • Kevin August 14, 2013 at 1:42 am #

        Most likely probably went home to cry and then about all the poor souls he violated over the. course of the day. But hey, bottoms up, right???

  9. penguinanne August 20, 2013 at 4:22 am #

    Great post! I’m so sorry that you have to go through this without any forewarning and hope that you are getting better! As a medical student we usually just read about this procedure and how to carry it out theoretically. Your story makes me realise that there is more that the patient has to go through other than the procedure itself. Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

    • pithypants August 20, 2013 at 7:17 am #

      I hope you only ever need theoretical knowledge of this one! 🙂


  1. I failed cat-anatomy. | pithypants - August 19, 2013

    […] going to take a vote: Is it more awkward to have a x-ray tech your own age administer a surprise enema, or have a doctor who is at least a decade your junior educate you on […]

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