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This second post concludes that posted on January 9th [link]. WARNING – this post is much longer!

Following my consultation I began the usual wait for things to happen at my local healthcare authority. During the waiting time, Nexium seemed to have worked, lower-bowel discomfort was reduced and I’d begun to forget all about the procedure discussed. Then just before Christmas (which I survived without any digestive distress) the appointment dropped on the mat for January 6th 2011.

The preparation
Instructions provided by the hospital are full and sufficient. They required me to eat a particular diet on day one, a mainly liquid diet on day two and to undertake the procedure on day three. The instructions comprehensively explain how the procedure will work and what to expect before, during and after the x-ray. So a rare well done to Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Healthcare Trust.

Basically, the bowel has to be as clean as possible for the procedure to work. For whatever reason, I had to have 2 slices of white bread toast for breakfast ‘with a scrape of butter’ on both days one and two. I could have had egg instead, but the toast wasn’t far off of my normal routine. However, I usually have a dark, rich artisan-baked bread – and rarely eat the sticks-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth soft and pappy stuff.

Day one
For lunch on day one I could have any lean meat and mashed potatoes (there was a slightly wider choice, but given the fact the my evening meal could only be a lean meat, white pappy bread sandwich I opted to pop out to the local butcher and buy some calves’ liver). As I was forbidden to drink anything other than ‘clear’ drinks now, I had a cup of oxo with my dinner, which also became the gravy for my calves’ liver and mashed potatoes. Actually? Lovely!

The clear drinks included orange juice without bits, tea without milk – although ‘a dash of milk’ was allowed with breakfast on days one and two; marmite, oxo, Bovril or water. I also had to drink approximately half a pint (250ml) of such liquid every hour. EVERY HOUR! I know that we should all drink about 2ltrs of water per day but who does that? Who can? Most of my daily liquid intake is tea and I couldn’t drink much of that as I like milk in my tea (I did get a taste for Rooibos with honey though). So the odd cup of oxo and Rooibos had to suffice as hot drinks.

Coffee might also have been on the list but as coffee is a major contributor to Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), I thought it best to avoid. I do enjoy coffee though and am usually prepared to put up with any resulting discomfort provided it’s a good brew – see: http://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/good-coffee/. But not at this time.

The sheer quantity of liquid I had to drink affected my voice for a few days and although my throat wasn’t sore, it was distinctly ‘unusual’. However, I dared not drink less than advised, as I knew what was to come on day two.

Day two
On day two there are two very important drinks to have: the first at 8.00am and the second at 2.00pm. The packet says that the drinks are ‘powerful laxatives’ and well, they are POWERFUL LAXATIVES! By now the reduced diet on day one and liquid-only diet of day two made so much sense. The frequency of toilet visits was not unlike having severe bouts of diarrhea but without the pain and discomfort. Also, because this was enforced evacuation, rather than the result of any illness, my urinary system continued to work too. So although I’d dreaded this middle day, it wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined. By bedtime I felt that I had enough control of my bodily functions to sleep soundly – which I did.

Day three
Come the day, I had what I could manage of drinks and still contrived to be the first in line at the hospital’s x-ray department. I changed into a hospital gown and was taken into the x-ray room. Here, I met three people. The lady in charge, a young male radiographer and a young female nurse training I think to be a radiographer. They were as polite and respectful as you would hope to expect when faced with a patient about to undergo a series of indignities.

The first indignity is the gown itself. I know why there’s no backside in it, but it doesn’t help you to stand up straight and proud.

The next indignity comes when the senior radiographer (the lady in charge – SR) asks the others, just after you have laid on the x-ray bed and bared your backside “has anyone seen the KY Jelly?” (That made me giggle). The whole procedure was actually made more relaxing by SR’s comments: “I’m just going to apply a little gel, it might be cold” and “I’m just going to insert the tube, it might be a little uncomfortable” etc. In fact none of that was too traumatic at all, certainly much easier than a doctor’s probings! Neither was it uncomfortable as the liquid was run into my bowel. At each stage, I was told what was going to happen and what it might feel like. So far, nothing was disturbing at all.

She then said that she would start to add the air and that this “might give me tummy ache, but it was unavoidable and it wouldn’t last long” – which was reassuring. The first injections of air were no trouble at all but as the procedure went along it did get a little uncomfortable. Despite having a tube up my bum (“I’m just going to tape this in place”) I was asked to turn this way and that for about ten to fifteen minutes as SR took the various x-rays of my bowel. At one point, the table I was laid on was tilted upright and I was hanging on to the bed in much the same way as I used to hang on to roller coaster cars! At each turn more air is pumped in and only when I thought that I couldn’t possibly take any more did the procedure finish. The most uncomfortable time on the table was at that point, as the procedure finished – because of the amount of air that I was holding inside me.

Nevertheless, nothing had been half as bad as I had thought it might be.

I was escorted out of the room now for the final indignity of being shown to the toilet and being told to spend 5-10 minutes getting rid of as much liquid and air as I could. The first flush (sorry – not intended as a pun) is a big one, but there is still plenty of barium liquid and air trapped around folds and bends of the bowel. As the bowel wall begins to work again (I had been given an injection of Buscopan – http://www.patient.co.uk/medicine/Hyoscine-butylbromide.htm – to relax the bowel wall as the air was added to it) the air’s journey is inexorable as it attempts to find a way out. This led to the only real discomfort I experienced during the entire day.

I was now allowed to eat and drink normally, so my starved stomach was able to pass the omelette through to my small intestine pretty quickly. I left the hospital about 11.20am and by 2.00pm I was in agony. The air was now being compressed between my lunchtime food as peristalsis pushed it down into the bends and folds which were preventing any urgent or worthwhile exit strategy (although there were one or two occasions). Basically, I had to go to bed and lie down for almost four hours to allow the discomfort (gurgling etc.) to pass. And it did pass. By 6.00pm I was fine – and have been since.

So that’s it. Don’t worry about the procedure, lie back and think of England – but don’t plan on going back to work afterwards, you’ll need to relax your tummy! 🙂

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Subtitle: The state of the nation

Today, John and I were joined on our walk by our friend Nick Jeans (@njeans) who had driven over from Sheffield to join us in Denby Dale, today’s starting point. I’ve tried mapping our route via Google Maps, as I usually do, but found it very difficult this week as we were mainly off the road and following no ‘Googled’ footway. Come on Google – get those cameras strapped to your backs and get walking the highways and byways so that I can illustrate exactly where we’ve walked to others.

Anyway, we pretty much walked around the Deffer Wood and Cannon Hall area seen below. Denby Dale is just off the map. It’s been a really pleasant morning. The sun was shining; last week’s snow has pretty much gone completely now and apart from the mud we had no trouble at all. It’s an interesting time of year to be out walking; you see the birds scuttling around looking for food and defending their territory, you see what nature has left for the wildlife to eat, such as the rose hips seen here and you often see much further as there is no or little foliage to obstruct your view. At one point we could see Barnsley in the distance and at another, the main road into Wakefield.

And we get to talk on our walks. We talked a lot and about a whole range of things, but one of things that exercised my mind was this week’s student protests. [These are my views]. I remarked that the police used some pretty uncalled for tactics whilst dealing with the rowdy crowds this week and the horse charge down Whitehall seemed particularly uncalled for. Those riders and horses are well trained to control crowds and there is no need to drive straight into such a human mass at speed. Although I wasn’t there and am only fed a diet of what the television shows me, I didn’t see an awful lot of thought going into the way in which the student crowd was dealt with. I know that, as always, there were ‘criminal’ and disruptive elements active there and there abouts but these were, again as always, in a minority. It didn’t look to me that there was much discrimination between who was beaten with police batons and who was not.

And why all this fuss? Because the Tory government (this time hiding behind the skirts of their Lib-Dem puppets) want to put up the cost of attending university. For me this is just the thin edge of a long wedge. It can only be a matter of time – if you follow the Tory doctrine that these students will earn a lot of money in later life – before these students are older and demanding a much higher wage to pay off their university debts and to secure mortgages etc.  How long will it be before even more public services are lost as such services become privatised so that these increased wage demands can be paid? What future the NHS?

I really don’t ‘get’ the idea that “these students” should pay more for their education as “they are the ones who benefit” from it. I must be pretty obtuse! I’ve always been of the believe that Education benefits the whole of society.

Society needs many layers of people in its make up. It needs higher level education to teach and train doctors, lawyers and the like; vocational education to teach and train engineers, plumbers, electricians and the like and schools, to prepare these learners for their adult working life. Yet, vocational education is treated like a leper whilst higher education learners are now being made to pay through the nose. And, at the same time schools remain indoctrinated with a curriculum that has little relevance to the real life young people will live.

Having said all that – our walk was unaffected and we talked of many other things too. 🙂

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