Imagine a big, fat, horse tail hair stuck in your throat. No matter how often or how hard you try to clear or swallow, it stays right there. That might faintly resemble this test.
I’ve had allergy test after allergy test, throat x-rays, video throat x-rays, a stomach acid prescription, two visits with a speech therapist, and an upper endoscopy in an ongoing effort to discover why I daily, and in some episodes constantly clear my throat (and cough). None solved the mystery or even began to.
These next tests (Esophageal Manometry/Motility Study and 24-hour PH & Impedance Monitor Study) took place in the sixth week of my daily radiation treatments. It was presented as a 24-hour monitoring test involving a tube through my nose and into my stomach. That sounds much less medieval than pushing a two-foot wire up my nose. The test began when a nurse squirted a horrible tasting numbing agent up my nose. You sniff it in and swallow. In a moment, when you notice it has become difficult to swallow, it’s time to lube and push the first tube into the nostril. It looks like a semi-rigid strand of beads. The beads are pressure sensors and will measure the target depth for the next probe, the wire that will remain for 24 hours.
The first probe was unpleasant, the second was quite painful. There is a sharp turn southwards early in the passageway from my nostril to my stomach. The beaded tube made the turn without much resistance due partially to the fact that its dimensions are close to the dimensions of the tunnel it’s slithering through.
The second intrusion, the wire, having a smaller diameter and being more rigid, needs to ram its blunt head into that sharp turn corner a few times until it realizes the path of least resistance would be to JUST MAKE THE TURN!
Once in place, the exposed plastic covered wire was taped to my face. I thought that was to keep it from accidentally pulling out of my nose, but I soon discovered that when I eat and swallow solid food, the ascending food pulls the wire with it deeper into my stomach. The wire would draw annoyingly into my nose, trying to go farther in each time I swallow, removing any joy there might have been in the meal. I had to pinch and hold it in place while eating, to win this tiny but extremely irritating Tug-Of-War competition. Or, did I have a fish on?
The dry end of the wire is connected to what looks a bit like a game controller. It’s worn like a shoulder bag and has numbered and symbol buttons of various sizes, and a digital back-lit display screen. When I clear my throat, I push button #1, when I cough – push button #2, take a pill – button #3. There’s a push button with an icon for I’m eating, another with an icon for I stopped eating. There’s one with a symbol for I’m horizontal and another for I’m vertical; and one more for I’m having sex. “Really!?” my wife asked. I tried to bolster my case by showing her the icon button that could possibly be misunderstood, especially if you looked at it from the proper angle. “Come on, it’s a medical test” I assured. I think she bought it for a fleeting moment.
Here are the immediate test results: If you are annoyed by people constantly greeting you, making eye contact and smiling, speaking to you without invitation; if you prefer to be almost invisible, you should put one of these wires up your nose and walk around in public. There might be an untapped market for something that looks like the real thing but would only need to go a short distance into your nostril. Who would know? Who’s going to check? If anyone should dare to approach, just start coughing and throat clearing as you busily push the beeping buttons on the control box. Maybe I could make and market these in my retirement.