Barium Dreamsdebragalant | April 13, 2011
I had an upper GI series yesterday: an xray procedure that required forgoing my morning coffee in favor of two gigantic radioactive milkshakes. We already know that my small bowel isn’t — as my husband likes to say — worth the paper it’s written on. We also know from my adventure in the ER last Thanksgiving and my subsequent colonoscopy, that the connection between my small intestine and my big one is like the Jersey Turnpike being narrowed down to one lane right at Exit 7A. But my gastroenterologist wanted to know how traffic was further up the road.
Ok, so fine. No coffee. Dowdy cotton gown. I was a little alarmed when the technician took an initial pre-barium xray and came back to my closet with a concerned look and asked how recently I’d been chugging the stuff. I told her Thanksgiving and realized that apparently I was still glowing in the dark. I would have worried more, but there was barium to drink and Twitter to attend to, and finally an actual M.D. came into the room with the gigantic machines, put on a lead apron about an inch thick, took some close-ups of my gut and proclaimed that except for the narrowing we already knew about, my small bowel was looking pretty good.
So far, so good. Until the technician said that normally she tells patients to take a laxative after this procedure, but since I have Crohn’s disease maybe I just wanted to flush myself out with lots of liquids. I thought I’d take the liquids route, and went about my day, and it wasn’t until about 9 p.m. that I started worrying about the globs of radium milkshake hardening into radioactive sludge in my intestines.
And then I read this horrifying news:
Mild constipation from the barium liquid is the most common complication of an upper GI series. Rarely, barium liquid causes bowel obstruction, a life-threatening condition that blocks the intestines. [emphasis mine]
In other words, the test ordered by my doctor could cause the same condition that had sent me to the emergency room in agonizing pain in November.
At that point, I took a dulcolax.
I kept downing the water and juice, went to sleep and had the first memorable dream of the past month. I was at my therapist and just about to tell her the most important epiphany of my life — an understanding of how my childhood unpopularity still haunted me — when she became obsessed with something i had spilled on her desk and wouldn’t listen to me at all. Later in the dream, my son (back to being a little boy) threw up in the kitchen sink instead of the toilet, and later small fires erupted spontaneously in my children’s bedrooms.
I woke up and, being the dream nerd I am, actually took some notes on my dream so I could bring it, like a dog with a bone, to my therapist today. Then I took another dulcolax.
I am happy to report that traffic has been moving down the Jersey Turnpike this morning and we’ll just keep it at that. Whether it’s moving enough, I can’t yet say.