Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Senescence sucks: Hiatal hernia (part 3)

(This man might have a hiatal hernia.  Or, he might just be in a burping contest with co-workers.)

My regular readers must think I am just making up this medical stuff lately.  DrTom could not possibly be going to doctors as much as he says, or else he wouldn't have time to write this blog.  He wouldn't have time to cut firewood.  He wouldn't have time to take photos of shrews.  He wouldn't have time to visit the little food market in Candor.  He wouldn't have time to host Jehovah's Witnesses in his garden, something he has really come to enjoy.  (I now have a sign next to my driveway that reads, "Jehovah's Witnesses: I'll be back soon.")  Who is trading stocks for DrTom when he is sitting in the doctor's office reading the May 1997 National Geographic about the poaching of rhinos in Zimbabwe?  Well, the observant will notice that this is the first post since Saturday.

So here is the latest.  I have had some difficulty with food sticking far down my esophagus on occasion over the past couple of years.  It is like part of my ham sandwich simply does not want to take a nosedive into a stomach full of concentrated acid.  Who can blame it?  But this alarmed my wife, so she had me mention it at my annual physical exam last month.  My family doc scheduled a "barium swallow" for me, which is a type of imaging used to see the esophagus.  When I got to the appointment at the Cayuga Medical Center, I realized that they had it all wrong.  The technicians that met me kept talking about me having trouble swallowing, and they were all set to do a test that looked at my throat. I thought it was weird that I was meeting with a speech pathologist.  The problem is not there, food lodges about a foot below that area of my body.  We had a nice chat about that part of my anatomy and they agreed that they were the wrong technicians.  I went home and my doc reordered the correct exam.  (By the way, I actually call my physician "doc".  I could be formal and call him DrLloyd, but he does not call me DrTom, so I compromise.  Should a physician call a Ph.D. "doc", or the other way around?  They could both refer to the other as "doc", but that would be one wacky sounding meeting in the exam room to anyone listening at the door.)

I returned to the medical center a few days later for the proper imaging.  Realize that each of these visits require that I come to town, 10 miles away.  So I usually combine errands and pick up grub, liquor, and loose women before or after my medical appointment.  At this visit, I actually ended up swallowing the highly viscous barium stuff that is needed for the imaging to work.  This material is so thick that you can not call it "drinking".  It was a light gray, very chalky substance and, of course, barium is one of the heavy metals, like arsenic or lead.  It was like swallowing liquid dry wall, if that was possible.  Certainly, one could use it to patch a small hole in wallboard.  The specialist takes the images, and tells me there appears to be no constriction of my esophagus.  He explains that with advancing age, peristalsis of the esophagus is not as robust, so food is more likely to linger there before clearing to the stomach. Ah, "advancing age"--have I mentioned that senescence sucks?  But there is one other thing, I have some "erosion" at the bottom of my esophagus due to stomach acid, which is caused by a hiatal hernia.  Just great.  Hernia and acid.  I hate everything about my body right now, and that iceberg is looking better and better.

So today, I had this follow-up appointment with my family doc.  When I arrived there, I was taken to the exam room by the nurse.  She took my vital signs and asked the reason for my visit today.  I honestly could not remember why the doc wanted to see me so soon after my annual physical, so I told her as far as I was concerned it was just a social visit.  I simply have not seen DrLloyd in a couple of weeks, and since I was chasing loose women nearby, I would just stop in and say hi.  I talk like this to amuse myself, but I am half afraid they might order a psych consult, and I don't need another medical appointment right now.

DrLloyd entered the room.  He wanted to talk to me about this hiatal hernia thingie.  Stomach acid has no place in the esophagus because it can cause that tube to become leathery, and that ain't good.  So, I either stay on this medicine he prescribed for me a couple of weeks ago for the rest of my life, or I have the hernia fixed.  So, in a week, I meet with the specialist that can fix the hernia---the same doc who does my colonoscopy every five years. I now have so many procedures and tests to do that I might be able to get some kind of bulk discount.  You know, like a colonoscopy and hiatal hernia repair for the price of one tonsillectomy.  Holy crap.  Don't even say that.  I still have my tonsils.

How many docs can I see in one calendar month?  I don't even want to know what is mathematically possible.  Realize that I am actually in pretty good shape.  Nothing seriously wrong, just lots of "rattles", to use a car analogy.  DrLloyd did tell me today that my last cholesterol readings were an improvement over the previous year, so he is not recommending meds to lower it.  I really do watch my fat intake.  But when I left the doc's office today, I decided I would splurge, so I bought a Snickers bar.  Kind of a celebration for the better cholesterol reading.  I just hope it doesn't get stuck in my esophagus.