Tag Archives: hospital

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.

Aww, shucks. No – thank YOU.

9 Jan
Image Source: someecards.com


After puzzling over the thank you note I received from GW’s Surgery Clinic following my colonoscopy this fall, I decided there was only one way to repay their courtesy: Send them a thank you note in response.

I’m usually not a fan of the endless loop that a “thank you for a thank you” engenders, but in this case, I felt it was appropriate.

Dear GW Surgery Team,

I’ll admit, I was somewhat surprised to receive a note of gratitude from you in the days following my colonoscopy. I mean, Ann Landers has long lamented that manners are dead and thank you notes have become a lost art. (Wait: Actually, Ann Landers is dead. And – ironically – it turns out manners are alive. In any case, your note would’ve made her happy.) 

And my own take? I have to tell you how FLATTERING it was to receive your note. I mean, getting a colonoscopy isn’t fun, and it leaves a person feeling exposed and vulnerable.

So to receive a hand-written THANK YOU note after the procedure? It’s kind of like Ryan Gosling saying, “Hey Girl, thanks for allowing me to roll you over and shove a camera up your ass while you were unconscious.” Except I bet it wouldn’t sound creepy coming from Ryan Gosling, because he’s apparently VERY sensitive.

Anyway, I do, REALLY appreciate the note. I assume (and I’m reading between the lines here) that means the popcorn I’d eaten immediately before my cleanse didn’t really pose a problem? So relieved. For all of us.

In any case, I won’t go so far as to say it was a “pleasure” doing business with you, but I do appreciate your attention to detail, and the personal touch your customer service provides. If it was as gratifying as you make it sound, I only request that in the future you pay me rather than invoice my insurance company. And then, I think, we will have reached an arrangement in which thank you notes are no longer needed.

Until then, many thanks for your appreciation, and appreciation for your gentle ways.

Yours on the table,


Ryan Gosling Hey Girl Meme

Or, to paraphrase, it might’ve sounded like this…

My ass – it’s killing me.

20 Oct

Oh hey! I’ve been a bit quiet lately, haven’t I? Sorry about that. For the most part, I’ve been busy with work, and –

What? How am I doing? Really? Sure you want to ask?

OK. Fine. I’ll tell you: I’m starting to get excited. On Tuesday I’ll be getting my second colonoscopy in six months. 

Admit it: you’re jealous.

As if two in a year weren’t thrilling enough, the real joy of this one is that it’s exactly a week before my birthday. Some people regain that youthful feeling with a spa day. Me, I prefer a more hard-core route. From my experience, nothing transports you right back to infancy like needing a diaper.

To each her own, I suppose. Whatever keeps you young.

Actually, I’m just happy I will be able to do the “prep” at home, in the comfort of my own bathroom, rather than in the hospital with a roommate. If you’ve never had a colonoscopy, I’ll spare you the details but this should help you get the gist: the prep (ironically branded “GoLYTEly”) ensures you will go to the bathroom over three dozen times in 12 hours – or until your stool is clear.

Let me repeat that: CLEAR.

Also: apologies for using the word stool outside of a kitchen or bar. Wholly inappropriate and kind of makes you puke in your mouth. So sorry about that.

Right. So I’m skipping the details, but I think we can all agree that when the preparation for a procedure defies nature – much like reversing the flow of a river – it can’t come without some, um, effort.

I don’t care how close I am with my parents – I’m glad they didn’t heed this advice.

By the way: If I ever have the option of inviting a dead or living celebrity to dinner, I think my money is on Katie Couric. Mainly because I want to ask the following: Katie, when you claim you had a colonoscopy on television, did you actually mean you PRETENDED to have one? Because I didn’t see any evidence of a) broken blood vessels from your face cramping up, b) shaky legs from running on zero nutrients for 48 hours, and c) terror in your eyes from the noise in your stomach.

My sister recently chatted me to tell the story of her friend’s son, who was given GoLYTEly in the ER, without the benefit of a semi-private bathroom. The poor kid had to STAND IN LINE after essentially detonating a bomb in his stomach. Again, I’ll spare you the details, but it’s safe to assume: that did not end well. Also, (just a hunch!) there may be a lawsuit related to human dignity at play.

So. I haven’t written for a while, but I think we’re pretty much caught up now. You might want to file this one under “Careful What You Ask For.”

For once, I’m not the one in the hospital!

14 Jul

I’ve spent a decent amount of time familiarizing myself with the Emergency Room in DC over the last two years, between getting hit by a car, having my leg do some random swelling thing, and thinking I had appendicitis. Based on my experience there, I assumed all hospitals were a flurry of activity, with nurses racing around, EMTs wheeling people in on stretchers and Code Blues being called over the PA.

So this morning, when Alan, my friend Kelly and I went to the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor to visit a classmate who wasn’t able to attend our reunion last night, I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone. The hospital was practically empty, with gates stretched over corridors and a closed sign hanging over the window of the gift shop. We walked the entire length of the building and got up to the fifth floor with only encountering ONE person.

It very much felt like we were in that television show The Walking Dead, where only zombies and a handful of humans populate the Earth.

Adding to the creep factor? The one person we saw standing behind the information desk when we entered the building. I approached him and asked, “How would we find out where our friend is and if she can receive visitors?”

He glanced up from whatever he was doing but made no move to the computer. “What the last name?”

“Allen,” I said. Without breaking eye contact, he said, “She’s up on 5 North.”

“SHUSH!” I exclaimed, causing him to stop speaking. (I didn’t remember this but Alan pointed it out after the fact because it was rude but the guy DID shush.) “How were you able to do that, without looking at a computer or anything?”

“I’m the chaplain,” he explained. “I’ve been up a few times to visit her, but she’s had doctors in there every time I go by.”

At the time it seemed like magic, but that was before we walked through the abandoned building and realized it was like a card trick where there’s really only ever one card that can be pulled. With seemingly no other patients, of course he knew who she was and where her room was. In retrospect, I’m a bit disappointed that he didn’t head us off at the pass by greeting us with, “Your friend is on Five North,” before we even asked. I mean, I’m pretty sure she’s the ONLY patient in the place.

After we found her, we asked if she needed anything to make her stay better. Candy? Books? Magazines? She shook her head, then relented, “Actually, some kind of mindless gossip magazine like People would be great.” Alan seized on the opportunity to go scout for one, leaving Kelly and me to chat with her in private.

Some ten minutes later, Alan reappeared, holding a book and a magazine. “Looks like you were successful,” I commented, before seeing what he’d actually retrieved.

At least it wasn’t this…

“Actually, the gift store was closed,” he said. Sheepishly, he held out his bounty. A Smithsonian Magazine and a Ken Follet novel. “But I found these in the waiting room so I thought they might work.”

Well, so much for reading about TomCat’s divorce. More like the fall of Rome. Which, I suppose, is probably better reading for someone in a VA hospital anyway. Good thing we didn’t go looking for games – probably would’ve only located Battleship and Stratego.

Now I’m wondering what the cafeteria serves. MREs?

Updated: Bottoms-Up! (Literally, unfortunately.)

3 Apr

For those of you who read this earlier… an update has been posted at the bottom. I survived! 

I’m posting from the hospital room, waiting for someone to come and wheel me down for a colonoscopy. I wish I were joking – or over the age of 60 since this would at least be par for the course. As it is, I’m sitting here with an empty stomach, clenching my ass checks and scowling at the empty gallon jug of GoLYTELY next to my bed.

Don’t know what GoLYTELY is? Consider yourself lucky. It sounds cute, and I was tempted to applaud the pharmaceutical pun-master who named it, since it’s a laxative with the explicit goal of “cleaning you out to the point that your stool becomes clear liquid.” Sorry, but something that does that definitely does not go lightly.

In fact, there were times in the past 12 hours where I was alternately curled in my bed, moaning, “What have I done to deserve this?”  and staring at the toilet paper roll thinking, “I feel like a POW.”

Quick backstory… I came to the ER yesterday because I’d had sharp abdominal pains for 24 hours and was thinking it might be appendicitis. I’d put it off for quite a while because I remember one of my friends who is an ER doctor telling me that most people who think they have appendicitis just need to pass gas. I did not want to be that person, forced to slink out of the ER with a can of Glade. Hence why I waited 24 hours.

Once I was admitted they did a CT scan. The nice guy who administered the CT scan had a thick Indian accent, so I couldn’t exactly understand everything he was saying. As he explained the procedure to me, I thought I heard him say the word “anus” but I quickly dismissed it. But then he was standing in front of me with something that looked like a whoopie cushion with a tube hanging out of it, saying, “Roll onto your side.”

What. The. F+ck.

Hours later, I received confirmation that my appendix was perfectly fine, but that they found something that might be an indicator of Crohn’s Disease. Next thing I knew, I was admitted overnight to prep me for a colonoscopy. I nodded my assent, thinking, “Katie Couric had a colonoscopy on TV. No big deal.”

Turns out? I kind of want to bitch-slap Katie for false advertising. That, or maybe rich people don’t have to go through the whole GoLYTELY prep. Maybe they just go in and let loose all over the table like a woman giving birth, but the hospital charges so much that it makes it worth their while.

Fortunately, the night nurse (who is about my age and awesome) prepared me for what would happen, so I was able in turn to prepare my roommate, whose bed (unfortunately) is right next to our shared bathroom. “Ma’am,” I told her. “I apologize in advance. They’re about to pump me full of something that will have me trotting in there repeatedly, and I don’t expect it will be silent.”

As it turns out, she’s using a bedpan, so while I may have beaten her in frequency, she’s the one who should’ve offered an aromatic candle as a hostess gift.

Also: I felt sorry for her when I checked in because her chart indicates that pain management is a top goal, whereas I’ve been in virtually no pain since getting to the room. This morning, however, when her breakfast arrived – filling the room with smells of bacon and coffee – I’m thinking I’d gladly trade places with her… I haven’t eaten anything since Sunday. This is like Torture, Part II.

Of course, I suppose I should be careful what I wish for or define as torture. I still have the actual procedure ahead of me. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: I survived! The actual colonoscopy was a piece of cake compared to the prep.

When they rolled me into the room for the procedure, I had two doctors, two nurses and an anesthesiologist surrounding me. I looked around before they put me under and said with a straight face, “I’m pretty sure you’re about to have an amazing experience.” 

As it turns out, they did. How do I know? Because I WOKE UP (no joke) halfway through, looked around and said, “Shouldn’t I be out for this?” right before they adjusted the drip and knocked me back out. Apparently my need to manage situations is a bit hard to give up.