Chris (karihan) wrote,

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Well, that was deja vu all over again ....

In my recent post of 10 odd things about me, I mentioned that I have a Schatzki ring, a medical condition that once sent me to the emergency room about six years ago.

History repeated itself yesterday. *sigh* I'M OKAY THOUGH, let me make that clear from the get-go.

I was eating a steak dinner on the deck with the family for Mother's Day. Steak is the main culprit in these situations, it seems, at least often enough for the medical profession to give the symptoms the name "steakhouse syndrome". What happens is this: The thickened ring of tissue at the lower end of the esophagus locks shut on some swallowed food, usually the aforementioned steak, forming an obstruction. Once that happens, any food, drink, medication or saliva the subject swallows can only come back out the way it went in, because there's no way for it to get down to the stomach.

Yeah, 'nuff said about that. Skipping merrily along ...

The only way that bad boy will come out is through endoscopy. The last time this happened, I spent a few hours resisting the idea that yes, I needed to go to the hospital, while a bunch of well-meaning people offered not-too-helpful advice ("No, I'm not choking, please DO NOT administer the Heimlich maneuver, thank you ..."). This time I knew exactly what was happening, and as much as I cursed the fact that uninsured I had to go through this crap again, I nevertheless had my father get me to the ER within an hour of my first symptoms. The nice people at Yavapai Regional Medical Center were very quick about getting me processed, triaged and into a room. Soon after that, I had a chest x-ray taken, monitors attached, blood drawn and an IV catheter in me. Then a bit of waiting around happened whilst they contacted the on-call GI doctor and she assembled her team. They twice gave me some water to swallow, before and after getting some IV Zofram, to see if the ring was relaxing on its own. It wasn't.

Once Dr. Wang and her team arrived (with all their equipment), I signed a bunch of paperwork and answered a bunch of questions. I mentioned that I went a little apneic while waking up after my last endoscopy, that is, I was breathing too slowly and kept setting off the monitors that were measuring the level of oxygen in my blood. They thanked me for telling them and assured me that they would have me on oxygen and would go as light as possible on the fentanyl and Versed they'd be using. They were doing "conscious sedation", by the way, not general anesthesia. Conscious sedation meant that, while my brain would have no awareness of the stuff they were running down my throat, I would still be awake enough to maintain my own airway with no need of a tube in my trachea.

After all had been explained to the satisfaction of both sides, they kicked Dad out of the room (he'd been patiently waiting with me), rolled me on my left side and gave me the drugs. So I was Not There while the good doctor ran a tiny camera down my throat to the obstructed area, cleared out a largish amount of food, then checked again for bleeding or any other abnormalities. I forget if she mentioned whether or not she dilated me-- that is, ran a small balloon down into the Schatzki ring and inflated it to stretch the tissue --but whether she did or not, I'll probably need a follow-up dilation after a while. I woke up without setting off the pulse-ox this time, then lay around for a while watching the Battle of the Pelennor Fields part of The Return of the King until they decided to release me, carefully going over my after care with me and Dad first.

Since I'm on soft food for 24 hours, Dad indulged me by picking up a couple of pints of ice cream on the way home. So I checked my e-mail, tried to write some more with the assistance of some Mayan Chocolate Haagen Dazs, gave up and conked out until this morning. Breakfast was peach yogurt; lunch will probably be cooked Grape Nuts with honey. I have a prescription for Protonix to fill and a follow-up appointment to make.

All kudos to Dr. Wang and the rest of the staff at YRMC for getting me taken care of in under five hours. They complimented me several times on how calm and relaxed I was about the whole thing, but really, there was no reason to get worked up. I knew what was happening, and my being a vet tech meant the medical procedures weren't particularly mysterious. I could breathe perfectly well and had no more pain than a moderately nasty case of heartburn would cause. Oh, and the damn automated BP cuff kept taking an absolute stranglehold on my upper arm. *looks askance at resulting linear bruises* I just hope and pray that the state-assisted medical insurance for which I signed up comes through, because this plus the follow up will probably come to at least a few thousand dollars in the end. O_o Any helpful vibes you care to give me in that direction will be gratefully accepted.

So my only major annoyance is that I was planning to pull an all-nighter on "Gossip" last night, and the drugs wouldn't let me. *sigh*
Tags: materia medica, rl

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