Things were more settled today; the IV meds and being nil my mouth had stopped the vomiting and the morphine was helping with the pain. I got the go ahead to have an Endoscopy / Gastroscopy procedure later on this afternoon. This is where they put a fibre-optic camera down your throat to look at your Oesophageal tract, Stomach and the Duodenum, which is the upper part of your intestine.
I’d had this procedure done at the age of 19, during an episode of vomiting fresh blood; however, that time I was given gas and was out for the count. This time I was just offered a sedative, which they said would leave me pretty much unaware of what was happening (during and afterwards), and make the procedure easier for them, so I took them up on it and signed my consent forms.
I went down to the Endoscopy department at around 2pm. The staff were lovely and very good at making me feel comfortable and at ease; they explained the whole procedure to me beforehand, as I wouldn’t get chance to ask questions halfway through, obviously! I was a little bit nervous about what to expect, but I have learnt over the years that panicking helps nobody – if you panic, your heart rate increases and you feel more agitated and out of control, your body tenses up and that makes it much more difficult for the medics to get things done quickly and efficiently. I always try and focus on the now, not the ‘what-ifs’, remember to breathe evenly and relax my body as if going to sleep (maybe this is why I am so good at sleeping anywhere!).
They explained to me that they would first numb the back of my throat with an anaesthetic spray that would help prevent me gagging – that part was quick and easy. Next, I was rolled on to my left side and I mentioned my joint problems so that they wouldn’t try and move me too awkwardly if I was out for the count at some point. They then gave me a very attractive gum shield and mouthpiece to protect my teeth from the camera itself; doing so before you are sedated means you get chance to become comfortable breathing with it in place, because it does feel different.
Next came the sedation – a quick squirt into the cannula already fitted in my arm. The first lot seemed to have no effect and so they gave me a second dose a few minutes later. This didn’t seem to work either, but they assured me it would probably just take time to kick in and I would feel the benefits throughout. Unfortunately (?) I seem to be immune to sedation – in fact, all it did is make me feel more awake – but I’d like to point out that this made little difference to the procedure itself, in my opinion. It really wasn’t that bad because I was relaxed and remembering to breathe, but I understand why people may find it uncomfortable if they are anxious.
The worst bit is when the camera and tubing initially goes down the throat but even that wasn’t terrible – they blow air down at the same time so you make a bit of a gurgling sound (which I had to try not to laugh at) and you find it a little bit different to breathe and I guess that’s the time you’re most likely to panic, but before you know it it’s done. Once it was down, I was quite comfortable and was able to breathe as normal and look at the screen to see my insides! The camera went all the way down into my duodenum and even took biopsies along the way, but I didn’t feel any of it.
It took about twenty minutes in all and I was aware of what was going on the whole time; the doctor explaining things as he went along. Even I could see the inflammation and a little pouch called a Hiatus Hernia at some point along the way, although he assured me that particular problem wasn’t what was currently affecting me. Once they’d got what they needed, there was a bit more gurgling and discomfort as they pulled the camera back out and that was it – all done! It was a very simple procedure and I wouldn’t have any reservations if I needed one again, even without sedation. They had warned me I may feel some discomfort afterwards, but the most I felt was a bit of a raw throat, which quickly disappeared.
Once the Endoscopy was over, I was allowed fluids again and (yipee!) was able to keep them all down. I wasn’t allowed food until the indepth results came back the next day though. Until then, we just kept up with the regime of IV medication with the addition of something to treat the inflammation, which they were now calling Gastritis. So we had a tentative diagnosis and a plan of action by the end of the day; can’t grumble about that!
Edit: I have since had another Endoscopy, this time without any sedation. It was bearable but a little more uncomfortable, which has made me realise that I probably did get some effects from the sedation, just not what I was expecting. I was still aware of what was going on; the main difference is that with sedation I don’t recall feeling the camera doing its stuff in my stomach, whereas when I had the procedure without, I could feel what was happening. This was only mildly uncomfortable, but if you are at all anxious may be more than you want to feel.