Esophagram Experience

Here’s the experience of an Esophagram (a series of x-ray pictures of the esophagus where the x-ray images are taken after the patient drinks a barium solution that coats and outlines the walls of the esophagus) aka Barium Swallow I can share after having one at two o’clock this afternoon. Truthfully, the whole thing was a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. But before I begin, step one is not eating after midnight the day of the test; wait to eat after the test.

My scenery for the Esophagram

The room I entered after being called for the test had four light-beige cabinets stocked full of medical supplies on one wall; two odd-shaped very large machines with thick tubes curling from them hanging from the ceiling; and in a chair to my immediate right was a white-towel-covered tray with three short clear plastic cups two-thirds filled with water, two straws, & one tall silver cup standing behind them.

The actual Esophagram

The first part of the esophagram involved frequently changing positions, including standing facing the corner and laying down and rolling over a few times to make the barium liquid spread around inside me, as well as drinking sips of different white thick milky-looking liquids. At different times, I was instructed to take sips and hold them in my mouth before swallowing; take three to four gulps quickly then stop drinking; and even drink from a straw while laying on my belly (which presented difficulty due to my facial paralysis not allowing my lips to close all the way around a straw, so we improvised with a tech holding the cup while I used my left hand to close my lips around the straw and drink as directed).

◊ My first piece of advice is to not spend time prior to whatever kind of medical test you’re having worrying about it, because the actual test will probably take less time than you wasted worrying. For example, I could’ve filled my brain with concerns about the unpleasant flavor of the three drinks and one other thing I was required to swallow today for my esophagram to operate smoothly (again, the liquids make a person’s insides easier to see on an x-ray), but really, a few swallows multiple times take only a few seconds and it’s done.

◊ Second, I highly recommend being compliant with the person administering the test’s (nurse, technician, doctor) orders, which leads to the exam/procedure completing in a more reasonable time and a smooth ride throughout.

From an overload of experience, I can tell you that now I know an unlikable part of any medical test – in my case today, largely what I was mandated to drink – is easily managed if you don’t psyche yourself out beforehand. For lack of a better way to say this, but I honestly am unaware of any other: Don’t be a baby and whine about “difficulties” during the medical test. On the one hand:

  1. You may have to drink unpleasant things . . . but on the other hand, that goes by very quickly.
  2. Someone may have you change into gowns, one facing the back and one facing the front, and then you might find out in the actual test room that disrobing under the gowns completely was unnecessary, although now it’s too late to do anything about it (my situation today) . . . but on the other hand, it’s not too cold in the room and you’re totally fine.

3. Two medical people, a doctor and technician, may grab your ankles and shoulders while you’re stretched out on a narrow table, to sway you back and forth in an effort to move the barium liquids inside you (also my situation today) . . . but on the other hand, the awkwardness that comes with people rocking you passes fast, & lastly

4. You may be asked to do unnatural weird things like lay on your belly and then shift on your right side slightly while bending your left leg up towards your head and then drink more liquid from a straw (once again, my situation today) . . . but being cooperative despite temporary uncomfortable periods makes the test run much quicker and gets you back home, or wherever you’re headed, a lot sooner than if you complained and refused to be accommodating.

Tacked-on tidbit – During one part of the esophagram, I had to face the radiologist and say “Eeeeeeeeeeeeee,” so when I ended I felt completely ridiculous and randomly tacked on “bola” to the end but no one heard me.

2 thoughts on “Esophagram Experience

  1. You win hands-down though, as the fabulous photographer, ceaseless patient advocate, and for rockin’ it as the best Mom in the world by a landslide. And for the brownies you made.

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