It wasn’t stomach pain that finally drove me to a gastroenterologist, it was embarrassment. My innards were getting progressively louder. They started by sounding like a creaking door at a haunted house and eventually worsened into the howls of a depressed hound dog. The doctor ran a few humiliating exams and suggested I get an endoscopy, which is the misleadingly reassuring term for sticking a camera down your throat to take pictures and gather samples for a biopsy.
I asked my boss for a day off. She suggested I might need to stay home the day before as well, but she was thinking of a colonoscopy, which calls for an evening of bowel cleansing. “Wouldn’t it be funny if I got both,” I said. “Like two trains going into a tunnel from opposite directions!” She didn’t laugh, which reminded me that she’s only been working here for three months and I better watch my mouth.
The day before the procedure a nurse called to discuss my medical history. She asked if I used recreational drugs. I said no, but I wanted to add, “You should have met me 20 years ago!” Then she asked me if I had any venereal diseases. Again, I was tempted to say, “You should have met me 20 years ago!” Instead I asked for clarification of where they were sticking the camera. She ignored this and asked if I had any religious or cultural beliefs that would prevent me from getting appropriate medical care. Depends on where you’re sticking the camera, I thought.
“Your appointment is at 7 AM,” she said. “It’s very important that you show up half an hour early.” Then why was the appointment at 7? Shouldn’t it be at 6:30? “Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight,” she added. Don’t worry, at my age I’m never up that late. You should have met me 20 years ago.
I showed up bleary-eyed the next morning and was asked my name and date of birth by the receptionist. She placed a sticker on a band that she put around my wrist. A nurse led me to a hospital bed behind a curtained section and directed me to put on the inevitable hospital gown and lie down.
A few minutes later a very small nurse in a hijab showed up and asked me my name and date of birth. She then wheeled my bed into another room. It was embarrassing to have someone half my size huffing and puffing as she pushed the bed while I just lay there. Why didn’t they move the bed first and have me lay down after? Because she’s Muslim, I bet. Bastards.
The anesthesiologist introduced herself, then asked me my name and birth date. Are they not writing this shit down? Then the first nurse rushed in with a new sticker. “Sorry, they mistakenly wrote down female,” she explained as she replaced the one on my wristband. What’s the big deal? Were they afraid the doctor would scream in the middle of the procedure, “Oh shit, she’s grown a penis while we weren’t looking”?
A needle was inserted into my arm and tubes of oxygen into my nostrils while a machine was beeping out my heart rate just like on TV. Then they stuck a tube in my mouth to keep it open and secured it with a large rubber band. I realized I couldn’t swallow (or even explain that I couldn’t swallow) and I could hear the beeping speed up as I started to panic. All of a sudden the oxygen smelled bitter and the beeping sounded crackly and I was out.
When the nurse woke me up I farted. She said the procedure had gone well, and that I might experience gas from the air that went in with the camera. Now she tells me. She handed me some papers with photos the doctor had taken of my insides. They could have told me they were peaches in different stages of decomposition and I would have believed them. (Though I might have asked them why they were showing me photos of peaches in different stages of decomposition.)
I wobbled back out to the waiting room and Sabine arrived a couple of minutes later to pick me up. “How did it go?” she asked.
“I farted,” I told her.
“Why, where did they stick the camera?”