Surviving a Head-Butt: An MS Patient’s Adventures in Digestive Care
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Yesterday, my gastroenterologist gave me a head-butt back in the endoscopy suite, a maneuver so powerful that I lost consciousness for at least 30 minutes. Wait, sorry… not the attack move you see in crime dramas, the double endoscopy kind of head-butt where I got scoped down the gullet and up the wazoo. I’m okay. Really.

Digestive problems led me to having to assume this compromising position. The gastro told me she has seen this in MS patients many times: Constipation, bloating, gas, distention, indigestion, trouble digesting. The differential diagnoses cut a wide swath, the blood tests and colonoscopy eliminating things like Celiac disease, cancer, polyps, gastroparesis, and thyroid disease. Before I was given a sedative, I told the doctor: “I’m going to make a prediction: You won’t find anything—and then you’ll diagnose me with IBS with Constipation.” “Yep,” she agreed, “That’s what I’ll do if I don’t find anything, and I’m with you on not expecting there to be anything serious.”

I was positioned on my side with an IV tube needle shoved under the skin of my hand, an oxygen tube wrapped around half my head and sticking up my nostrils, and a blood pressure clip that was too big for my pinky. Why they didn’t clip it on my index finger I haven’t the slightest, and I couldn’t suggest it to them because they shoved a tooth guard in my mouth. It was quite a sight, me with my jaw propped open wide like a suckling pig holding an apple in its mouth, ready for the spit. I silently belly-laughed at the thought, my diaphragm rising and falling with each guffaw. The nurse smiled at me and asked do you have enough stuff hanging off you or would you like me to hang a few more? I winked at her, grateful that she got the joke and made up one of her own. I wish all my procedures went like this. Strange, though, that I didn’t hear any scatological humor in the butt clinic. You’d think they’d have had that shtick down years ago. I suppose sensitivity training zapped that kind of talk along with sexual harassment and mother-in-law jokes.

I watched the nurse slowly move the wheel that controls the flow of propofol into my vein. It only took a few seconds to feel drug euphoria wash over me. I smiled at the sensation. This is usually when I tell them how good it feels and can I please get some to go?

I woke feeling groggy and dizzy and pretty much felt that way for the rest of the day. No problema, you might be thinking.  But I can’t say I much care for propofol, this being my first time with the drug. When I was being prepped, the anesthesiologist, a tiny, pleasant man who asked a lot of questions about MS and drug side effects after I told him I was an MS patient advocate, gushed about how they no longer use a Versed/fentanyl cocktail since people complained about nausea and other unpleasant side effects, and how propofol is so much better-tolerated. I told him I never had any problems with the Versed cocktail and I have never felt groggy or nauseous afterwards. The difference, he explained, is that Versed just puts us in a twilight state whereas propofol puts us to sleep. Well, it sure did that, and I much prefer the Versed cocktail aftermath.

My gastro bounced into the room and, through a groggy haze, I heard her say there had been a polyp which she removed, some hemorrhoids, and no sign of cancer. I was relieved to learn there were no serious conditions causing my symptoms. I’ll find out more in a couple of weeks during my follow-up appointment when I get the biopsy results for the polyp. If it is an adenoma—a benign tumor that can turn into malignant colon cancer—then I will be urged to repeat this procedure in five years.

Just like every other aspect of having multiple sclerosis, there will be no straightforward cause- and-effect scenarios, nor any treatments that will neatly relieve my gut symptoms and restore me to “normalcy.” I plan to ask her more about the role MS has played in developing these problems.

Preliminary recommendations: Drink more water, lose weight, add more fiber, eliminate dairy, and raise potassium level. How many conditions have you been tested for that yielded similar advice?

I wish such platitudes could be effective remedies for MS and aging. But they are more like grease for the wheels that carry me over the cobblestones of my ever bumpier life path.

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