Monday, May 01, 2006

Journal: A new specialist for my collection

Yesterday afternoon, I added a new medical specialty to my collection. In addition to a neurologist, 2 urologists, a psychiatrist, a neuropsychologist, and a pain specialist, I now have a gastroenterologist in my scrapbook. (Imagine, if you will, a half-dozen paper-thin, translucent, slightly faded medical professionals, having been dried in a gigantic flower-press and arranged tastefully under the glass of a rather large picture frame. Hee hee.)

I'd not really been looking forward to this visit, thinking it would mean a lengthy discussion of my bowel habits (or lack thereof). After all, over the past three months, I'd already had to do that a half-dozen times with three different primary care docs (Dr. A retired at the end of 2005, Dr. B took maternity leave in February, leaving Dr. C to hold down the fort). All three had, more or less, counseled "Fiber, fiber, and more fiber" in addition to judicious use of stool softeners and a mild laxative (the hated Milk of Magnesia). And drink more water, idiot.

It wasn't really working for me. What was working for me was a nifty little product called Glycolax. A friend of mine, who'd had lymphoma, had hooked me up with a bottle of the stuff, in violation of state and federal law. She did so, though, only after consulting with an M.D. friend of hers, who opined that it seemed unlikely to do me any harm. Glycolax is a powdery form of polyethylene glycol; you mix a capful up with 8 oz. of water and stir until it dissolves, and drink. It's completely flavorless (it's like drinking water that's just a bit less watery) and isn't absorbed by the body. The Glycolax apparently refuses to allow your small bowel to suck the water out of it, and you end up getting a healthy dose of moisture delivered to your colon, free of calories, gas, or yucky Metamucil.

So when my primary doc finally referred me to a GI doc, I started rehearsing my bowel history routine, trying to remember what had happened, what I'd tried, in what sequence, what other factors might be relevant, and so forth. In the end, though, the visit to the GI doc took about 10 minutes: I delivered the executive summary of my gut troubles, and he wrote me a script for Glycolax (and more detailed instructions for the "Fiber, fiber, fiber" component).

Said the GI doc, "Glycolax is essentially an oral enema. If it works for you, keep taking it, regularly." (I'm guessing the "oral enema" angle isn't something the manufacturer touts, at least not to patients). The GI doc also said "Fiber, fiber, fiber" (wheat bran, specifically), but with the very helpful proviso that I should add it to my diet gradually. If you give a constipated person fiber, it's not going to help unconstipate him, and will tend to sit in the colon where gut florae will magically convert the fiber into fart. Aha.

So, relatively painless. Which is a great blessing, for this Friday, I undergo my annual pressure flow study at the urology clinic. That will not be painless. If you haven't had a pressure flow study, it's a process where the patient is catheterized and connected to a computer and certain muscle sensors, including one that is essentially an electronic butt plug. The nurse, who is named Jenny (or possibly Jenni) then begins to fill your bladder from the wrong end, forcing saline solution into into it until you piss yourself. The computer then charts a bunch of colored lines on the monitor that tell your urologist important things about how your plumbing is malfunctioning. Then you thank Jenny (or possibly Jenni), complimenting her on her ability to preserve whatever fraction of your dignity remains at the end of the procedure. Seriously, though, she's great.

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1 comment:

Beth said...

Ha! I'm glad your GI dock could help you rather than just telling you what you have obviously already tried. I have to limit the number of Kashi products I consume in a day out of my concern for my coworkers.

Man that bladder test sounds awesome- what is that- the male form of childbirth (but no prize at the end)? Of course I'm sure Jenni (or Jenny) is totally hot- it couldn't be some 50 yr old male nurse.