This week I spent a couple days in Seattle at the University of Washington Hospital Medical Center having some tests done on my stomach and esophagus. I have been having esophageal spasm every once in a while for the past five to seven years. They have been happening more and more frequent and more intense and I finally let Barb convince me to have a specialist look at me. What follows are the “highlights”. Lots of verbal information gathering was done at various steps along the way. And a fair amount of waiting too.
First they ran a tube up my nose and then down into my stomach and measured the pressure of the muscles in my esophagus as I swallowed. They would squirt some stuff (either salt water or this gooey junk) into my mouth and I would swallow. They did this 10 times for each substance.
Next came the endoscophy — visually looking at my esophagus and stomach. They put in an IV, positioned me on my left side facing the doctor and gave me an injection of some sort of sedative. I remember the room looking just a little bit “wavy” and Barb and one of the workers came rushing in to ask a couple quick questions. I answered, they left, and I turned to face the doctor again. I opened my eyes and I was in the same exact body position but in a different room and Barb asked me “How do you feel.” I said, “I feel like I just woke up.” I wasn’t groggy or anything. My eyes were working well, it seemed to me that I had just blinked but things weren’t quite right because I was in a different room. Very strange. The assisting nurse had said I would remain conscious and be able to follow directions but I may not remember anything. I remember absolutely nothing of the procedure. I now have picture of the inside of my stomach — a place where the sun doesn’t shine. Everything looked normal.
Next came the upper GI — X-rays of the stomach and esophagus as I swallowed a barium compound (which tastes a lot like caulk). The doctor found a small hiatal hernia. That probably contributes to the problem but isn’t a big deal.
Next came the PH probe which stayed in until 8:00 AM the next morning. A wire went in my nose and down my throat to my stomach. A ground wire was fastened to my shoulder. A monitoring device about the size of my hand was on a carrying strap that went over my shoulder. I couldn’t take a shower or get anything wet. The wire made my nose tickle and irritated the back of my throat. I had terrible urges to cough and sometimes to sneeze. I need to record all “events” such as coughs, sneezes, eating, lying down, going upright, incidences of heartburn, burps, etc.
The next morning at 8:00 AM sharp they removed the PH probe. About 8:30 a medical student took a bunch of medical history and did a physical exam. Blood pressure, pulse, listened to my heart and lungs, looked in my ears, nose, throat, felt a number of lymph nodes and pressed and thumped my abdomen and chest. She left for a while then the doctor and student came in and announced “you should go on antacids”. Surgery wasn’t something he recommended. I have a fair amount of acid reflux and it was surprising I didn’t feel it more (I seldom feel any heartburn) and that is causing the spasms. I asked about the effect of not having acid in my stomach — doesn’t it play a role in the digestive process? He said that it may have a subtle role that we don’t understand yet and that may be why some people get diarrhea when they go on antacids (I don’t). But that nutritionally it doesn’t seem to affect people. Okay. I can do that. I took Prevacid for several weeks on two occasions and it worked well for me without noticeable side effects. I don’t like to take drugs and I particularly don’t want to take a drug for the rest of my life. But as near as I can tell this is a pretty benign drug in terms of side effects and not having any more of those exceedingly painful spasms would be most welcome.