Yesterday's barium test was nothing like I expected. No removal of clothing or metal objects, no lying on a cold table, no hanging around for hours before and after. Instead, I got to stand in a brightly lit room for about 5 minutes in front of a circle of metal about the width of an auto wheel while a Nurse Practitioner worked her magic. Directly in front of me was a video screen so I could watch the result of the x-ray in real time. I immediately had a lovely view of my chest cavity - spine, ribs, and shoulders. Very much like the sick bay in Star Trek, I must say.
I was handed a tiny cup with a straw in it and told to sip the barium slowly until it was gone. As I did so I got to watch a cascade of black looking fluid flow down in front of my spine, hang a right at about my diaphragm, and then drop down into my stomach. But apparently there was a problem...
"Mr. Schofield, you have a hiatal hernia." my Nurse Practioner reported.
"A what?" I eloquently replied.
"A hiatal hernia. The barium should flow down the esophagus, then make its way down into the stomach. Do you see this barium here?" she asked, pointing at a little flow of the dark liquid that had headed up, away from the rest of the flow, looking like a small tributary leading into a mighty river.
"Yes, I can see that."
"That is a hiatal hernia - a hole in your diaphragm where your stomach is poking through. There's also a little air pocket above it." she continued, pointing at a small white circle above the lost barium. "That shouldn't be there."
A hole in my diaphragm? An air pocket in my chest cavity? Just as well a pulse and blood pressure monitor wasn't hooked up to me at that point. The numbers would NOT have been good. However, it turns out my worry was for naught. Though my NP was puzzled that I have not been suffering any of the usual symptoms (acid reflux, pain in the chest), I was informed that the repair of my hernia would be done during my Gastric Sleeve procedure, adding about 5 minutes to the procedure. I would not even be required to make any changes to my daily diet or other activities. We left the office, and went about the rest of our day (which is a whole OTHER blog post.)
I have to say for the record here that I have loved ABQ Health Partners Bariatric Surgery department. They have taken a very confusing and emotional process and turned it into "just another health problem we are going to solve". I have yet to meet a staff member, from a receptionist to my surgeon, Dr. Tyner, that has not been a total pro. RNP Costales yesterday was no exception - everything was explained to me in language I could understand, and I felt no pressure to move things along while I was getting all my questions answered. Given some of my hideous experiences with other doctors and health care providers while working through my other chronic condition, I know that Lor and I have been very lucky to be getting our procedures done here. Highly recommended, if you are anywhere near Albuquerque.
Up next on the Road to Surgery: My first nutritionist appointment, coming up next week.
Still Trying To Feel The Hole In My Chest,