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Down In The Dumps: or how I survived a barium enema

Updated on December 16, 2017
CJStone profile image

CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books, and columns and articles for many newspapers and magazines.

How I survived a barium enema

Like most men I know I have an eye for a pretty girl. And it's not just the obvious things which attract me. I might find myself gazing at someone's eye-lashes, or her hair, or her belly-button, or her arms. I'm particularly attracted to bellies as it happens, which is deeply frustrating for an old bachelor such as me, given the current trend for exposing large amounts of deliciously tanned belly-flesh, usually with a choice tattoo and a silvery piercing for decoration.

However, on this occasion, it wasn't the woman's belly I was looking at, it was her mouth.

It was in the hospital, where I was waiting for an appointment. She was behind the reception desk. And she was very pretty, with light mousy-blonde hair, small, curved shoulders and a sly, intelligent smile. But it was not her smile I was observing. She was chewing a biscuit, and I was much more obsessed with the biscuit than I was with any other quality she might be exhibiting.

I kept glancing up from the magazine I was reading as she tucked another crunchy mouthful away. The magazine was the Observer Food Supplement and there was a wonderful recipe for a Seychelles Fish Curry which I could almost smell from the description on the page. But I kept being drawn back to that mouth. I could see her jaw working with a delicate masticating rhythm, her throat as she swallowed, her lips opening for another bite, her white teeth stained with the crumbling remains. I could taste every bite in my own mouth, as my mouth began to water.

I'd been forty two hours without food by this time. Forty two hours with nothing but sweet coffee and Bovril to sustain me.

The day before I had also taken two doses of a heavy duty laxative (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) which had had me leaping to the toilet every five minutes, while a veritable rocket-blast of liquid effluent came roaring from my rear end. I'm sure that I was raised at least two inches from the toilet seat with the force of the explosion.

I was on my way for a barium enema.

I was also very, very nervous. Not so much at the prospect of any pain (I'd been assured it wasn't too painful) as at the humiliation of bending down to the scientific rigours of the medical establishment: being slapped on a table and pinned down like a specimen in a medical experiment, while they pumped alien substances into my back-passage, no doubt with the prime intention of blowing away the last vestiges of my human dignity.

As it happens, that's exactly what it was like.

Fortunately for me and the world, bums are just inherently funny. I spent most of the ordeal laughing at the absurdity of the situation.

It was like this:

First of all I had to take all of my clothes off in a cubicle, and then put on a gown with a slit up the back, with a dressing gown on top. Then I had to go and sit in the reception area again.

An old lady arrived and sat next to me. A nurse came out and offered her tea and a sandwich. The old lady looked through the selection and said, "Yes, yes. I don't normally eat meat but, yes... on this occasion. Yes please."

She opened her sandwich and began to tuck in.

I said, "is that your first food for over 40 hours?"

"Yes," she said, "it is. It was worse yesterday. I didn't know what to do with myself."

"I know," I said.

"Oh I'm sorry," she said, "you haven't eaten either. Would you like me to go somewhere else?"

"No," I said, "as long as you don't mind me drooling while I watch you."

After that I noticed that she turned her back on me and was eating her sandwich with a kind of furtive hunch, no doubt guarding herself from all that drool.

The radio was playing faintly in the background. "Sugar-sugar, oh honey-honey, you are my candy girl, and you've got me wanting you."

Then the news came on. There was a story about a doctor who had murdered one of his patients, no doubt by blowing him up from the rear end or starving him to death.

I was almost cracking up with hysteria by now.

Finally it was my turn to go in.

Well the doctor was very nice. He was trying to put me at my ease. He kept making jokes. Not that I found any of them funny. The joke was all on me.

So I was made to lie on a bed, with my knees bent, to one side, while the doctor took a rubber tube with a bobble on the end, and smeared it with lubricant, before inserting it into my back-passage. I was told to breath deeply while he did this. And then it kind of slipped in, with a low, slurping murmur and a satisfying schloop, like a piece of jelly slipping from a mould and slapping onto a plate.

So now I knew what it felt like to be anally retentive. My anus was gripped on this tube with a sort of fierce determination all of its own. Anything stuck up your butt makes you want to unload your bowels. Except, of course, there was nothing left in my bowels to unload.

After that the barium was pumped up into my inside, while I watched a picture on the nearby TV screen of my own insides.

Barium is a radioactive material that cleaves to the walls of your bowel, thus making the soft invisible tissue visible to scanning equipment.

After that the doctor blew air inside of me. This is to force the barium onto to the walls of your bowel, making it appear on the screen. Which it duly did, like magic. "That's a very nice bowel," said the doctor. "Very nice and shapely."

It was the first time I had ever been complimented on the shape of my bowel.

Having air pumped into your bowels is like the feeling you have when you follow a seven-course slap-up Indian meal with about ten pints of extra fizzy lager. It's like you want to do the longest, loudest, most explosive fart in history.

I'm only telling you all this just in case you have to have a barium enema one day.

I tell you: some people I know would pay good money to have this experience.

So that's how the whole thing goes on. There you are, flat on a bed, with a tube up your nether regions, wanting to blow like crazy. The doctor tells you to turn this way. So you do. And then that way. So you do. On your back and on your side. On your stomach, on your other side, while he loads the machine and it whirs and clicks and rattles mysteriously, with this tube dangling out of your bum, stuck on with sticky tape, and trailing and getting caught under your legs. Your greatest fear as that it will catch on something and come squirting out, followed by all that barium and all that air, like a fog-horn going off in the middle of a quiet street.


The whole thing lasts for about half an hour, after which the doctor's assistant (he wouldn't dream of doing it himself) plops the tube out of your rear-end again, and then chucks the whole lot into a bin. He's wearing rubber gloves and goggles as he peers into your nether regions, just in case.

I said, "that's a strange job you've got."

He said, "I'm not looking up back-passages all the time, you know. And I'm only here twice a week."

He sounded very defensive about his job.

After that you are directed to a toilet, where, at long last, and with a huge sigh of relief, you are allowed to rid yourself of the weight of barium and air at last, with a long, satisfying vent of truly epic proportions. It was almost worth the experience just for the explosive relief at the end.

I got home at six fifteen that evening, after forty four hours and fifteen minutes without food, and ordered a Chinese meal. Well what did you expect? Did you think I was going to be bothered to cook? And then, about an hour and a half later, I ordered another one.

It was King Prawns in garlic and chilli sauce with Singapore fried noodles. Delicious. The best Chinese food I have ever eaten.

And after all that it turned out that there was really nothing wrong with me.

I'll think twice before listening to a doctor again.

© 2008 Christopher James Stone


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    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      5 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Thanks Soc. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I can really relate with your experience. Very well written and I laugh my ass out!!! I cried due to laughter.this certainly made my day!

    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      9 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Thanks DC. This one doesn't get read, let alone commented upon, very much. Pity cos it's quite good, but I suspect not many people are googling "barium enemas".

    • profile image

      D.C. Gallin 

      9 years ago

      Funny!!! love it

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      10 years ago

      CJ, hope you realise what ghouls your readers are...we read till the very last word! :P

    • Steve Rensch profile image

      Steve Rensch 

      10 years ago

      The good: your story is wonderful. The bad: it brought back memories of the time I had the same procedure. How much time passed before you could find humor in the experience?

    • trish1048 profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi CJ,

      Well, I haven't been told by my physician I need it.  However, I tend to be on the pro-active side when it comes to my health, and this is a test I have been considering.  I have been lax lately, and I'm not quite sure why.  I did have a mammogram once that turned up something 'suspicious' so the doctor scheduled me for a biopsy.  Thinking nothing of it, off I go for this procedure. 

      I'm thinking, ok, he's going to poke a needle in my boob, withdraw a specimen of tissue, and it will just pinch.  When I was led to the examining room, I was told to lie face down on this weird table.  At one end was a hole right through the table.  I had to disrobe (naturally) and lie there and position my boob to hang through the hole.  It reminded me of some kind of medieval torture thingie. 

      So, he did his little procedure through that hole from beneath the table.  Since I couldn't see anything, I wondered, did he do a switch and bait?  That perhaps, he had a person of shorter stature to sit on the stool under the table?  It defied logic.  While lying there, I thought, gee, what do women with small breasts do?  How does a small breast 'hang' out through the hole?? This was one time I was thankful for the size I am.  Anyway, to be quite honest, it really didn't hurt, it was extremely uncomfortable, and I did feel movement, but no pain. 

      His comment to me when it was over was, if you ever need this done again, you'll know what to expect.  Very true.  The good news is, is that there was no health risk.

      Maybe now that I've read your hub, I will give serious consideration to forge ahead and schedule an appointment.


    • Pam Pounds profile image

      Pam Pounds 

      11 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest!

      Hi CJ - this was so funny! I can somewhat relate to your experience, since I had a colonoscopy a few years ago....the worst part is the torture of starvation and the medical drano you're supposed to fill your insides with so they clean out.

      Bottom line (no pun intended)...I'm glad you're ok.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      11 years ago from United States

      The doctors and nurses thought it was pretty funny too. He's still not laughing.

    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      11 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Jerilee Wei, just realised what body part your husband must have held. Very funny.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      11 years ago from United States

      Ha! Ha! Until I read your hub, I thought no one could top my husband's experience with the same procedure. He was at one point told to "hold it" and red-faced misunderstood what he was supposed to hold, and instead of squeezing his cheeks, he held on to a different body part in total confusion.

      Seriously, you are right do have this done if that's what the doctor advises. In his case, it saved his life, as it turned out he had colon cancer. Geat hub!

    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      11 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Hi trish, I guess it depends on whether you think you need it or not, and it's true, it's not so bad. I just upped the anti a little to make a good story. Don't let that put you off if your doctor is advising you. And, I tell you, that final fart was almost worth all the discomfort... Ha!

    • trish1048 profile image


      11 years ago


      Hysterical! Darn near peed myself laughing so hard. NOT at you but the way you presented this experience. Now I have a decision to make, and after reading this, I may just skip this life experience. I've been procrastinating about it for a couple of years now, and this just confirms some of the thoughts that have gone through my mind about what it's like. Folks I work with have gone through this, and I'm told, it's not so bad. UGHHHHH! They claim the first day is the hardest, which I have no doubt is true.

      In any case, a very funny hub about a very serious procedure.



    • Veronica Bright profile image

      Veronica Bright 

      11 years ago from Nebraska

      HAHAHA...Rhym was right, this was funny. Thanks for the laugh!

    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      11 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      JamaGenee, Oh I don't mind the Royal Mail. It keeps me fit. I just wish someone with a magazine would see what you - and a few others on this site - have seen, that I can ALSO write. As for the laughter, well I would have too at the time, but it would have been dangerous to do so, holding in all that wind.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      11 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Your writing talents are sooo wasted at Royal Mail! The description of the tortures of the before, during, and after a barium enema has topped what used to be THE funniest experience ever committed to paper: not reading the instructions before waxing one's own bikini line. I haven't laughed like that...well, since the account of the bikini waxing gone bad.

      Unless you forgot to mention gassing a passerby with one of those mega-farts, nobody died, so BRAVO for finding the humor in an unpleasant experience and turning it into a hysterically funny hub!

    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      11 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Hey Rhym O'Reison, I just read your hub about being caught short on the bridge which made me laugh too. We obviously share a delight in this kind of - I think it's called - scatological humour.

    • Rhym O'Reison profile image

      Rhym O'Reison 

      11 years ago from Crowley, Tx

      You are a great story-teller.  I love how open and honest you are with your story and that makes it all the funnier, because I could totally imagine it every step of the way.  I don't know why we (society) are so reluctant to talk about embarrassing situations, because they can give us something to laugh about and really, what is better than a great laugh with good friends?  The details of the receptionist, the old lady and the doctor's assistant were awesome and had me hooked from the beginning.  Can't wait to read more.

    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      11 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Shadesbreath, if you were cringing imagine how I must have felt!

    • Shadesbreath profile image


      11 years ago from California

      God, such bait and switch up there with the pretty tummys and mouths and then... bleh. ROFL. While I confess that a huge percentage of me (probably the rapidly aging part) was cringing the entire time, that was just funny to read the way you wrote it down. Obviously I've found another hubber whose list of works I need to read (you're 2 for 2 so far).

    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      11 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Well you know what they say Lifebydesign: it's not the destination, it's the journey!

    • Lifebydesign profile image


      11 years ago from Australia

      You went from the top to the bottom with amazing detail and imagery in between. And funny.

      Glad it all worked out well in the end!

    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      11 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Not many good reasons for living in the UK any more, but one of them is a free National Health Service. And at least I got to wear a gown with a split up the back. I kept wanting to do a moonie in it.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Oh my God! It's great you could laugh about it! I spent two days in the ER last week because of chest pains and I am also fine, nothing seems to be wrong except the usual mental things, but I was feeling enormously sorry for myself (especially after getting the bill--$8700!!!!!) until I read your story! My stay was like being at a day spa compared to yours!

      I'm so glad you are ok.

      I miss having a proper flat belly. Got lots of mileage out of mine in my younger days, but the squishy ones are not so bad--great for grandkids!

    • CJStone profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher James Stone 

      11 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Ha ha, yes, but it was like so many things Steve, very funny on reflection. At least I wasn't having an operation.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      11 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I don't think I could have handled all that, Chris! It sounds a complete nightmare!


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