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