The Dumbest Thing I Have Ever Done
by A J BURTON
Would you volunteer to be water boarded? Or listen to all the works of Shakespeare in Swahili? Probably not, only an idiot would want to do that, right?
Well say hello to an idiot. The man afflicted with the 'mostly' suppressed macho gene.
A few months ago I had an appointment with the medical super clinic in Manukau City. Manukau City is part of Auckland City in the North Island of New Zealand. Yes a city within a city. Don’t ask me why, it’s the bureaucrats’ idea.
I was scheduled to have a gastroscopy to check that my reflux wasn’t caused by anything sinister. In case you don’t know gastroscopy is a procedure where a long tube with a camera at the end (endoscope – image above) is slid down your throat and finally into your stomach.
The clinic told me to arrive early and not to have eaten anything the night before, or that morning. The super clinic performs minor operations where I don’t have to stay overnight after I come out of the operating theatre. I would receive some aftercare to make sure there are no complications from the anesthesia drugs. I also needed a driver as you are not allowed to drive for 12 hours after the gastroscopy.
After giving my appointment letter to the receptionist I sat waiting my turn amongst dozens of other patients. I was struck by the amount of older persons awaiting operations. It was like staring through a looking glass to the future. I tried to tell myself, you are still relatively young but a small voice in my head kept reminding me I was now sixty. Old age and senility is just a few twists and turns away.
By the time my name was called I was somewhat depressed. I took my form to a consulting room where the operation was to take place. There I met the doctor, a middle aged man with expensive shoes and an attractive brunette nurse looking smart in her uniform.
The doctor explained I wouldn’t be completely unconscious but would receive enough drugs to keep me in a semi state of consciousness. Then for a reason I can still to this day never explain, the not very repressed macho gene insisted I ask this question.
“So doctor, do you have to be put under to have this procedure?”
His face lit up. In retrospect his mind must have been calculating how much extra time he was going to get on the golf course that afternoon.
“Why yes, some people have been known to be able to endure this procedure without any anesthesia at all. Plus they can be released straight after the procedure. You can drive yourself home.” The macho gene which had now morphed into the idiot gene informed me that I was one of those braver than brave heroes who don't need any sedation to have a long tube rammed down their throat.
“We can try it if you like. You can always change your mind. Nurse let’s get ready. Sign here Mr. Burton. Sit in the chair. It is a very safe operation, I have done hundreds.” He was probably thinking 'This will make a good story on the 19th hole this afternoon.'
Before you could say Geneva Convention I was in the chair. The smiling nurse or was she laughing? Placed a mouthpiece in my mouth.
“This will protect your teeth.” With the other hand she produced a long black tube with a tiny bulb arrangement in the end.
I had this dreadful feeling they were going to hammer the camera tube down my throat. I had some sort of numbing liquid sprayed into my throat. Now was the time the Doctor should have said.
“Ha-ha of course we are now going to give you a sedative to help you through this. Only an imbecile would want to endure this without one.” Or even. “Now you are absolutely sure about this Mr. Burton? There is still time to put the drip in your arm.”
But instead the nurse leaned over and whispered. “Here it comes, you will experience a gagging reflex. Try and work your way through it.”
I can’t remember which one of them started stuffing what felt like a garden hose down my throat. I had the mother of all gagging reflexes. I went from hero to zero in a heartbeat. I tried to tell them.
“This is a mistake. I am choking to death. Let’s start over again and I'll have a shed full of sedative please.” But all that came out was. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!” I remember telling whoever would listen “Take this f*&^%king thing out of my throat I want drugs!” But again all that came out was. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhh.”
“You are doing well Mr. Burton. Only another meter and we will be there. Look! You can see the camera pictures now. How do you feel?”
“How the hell do you think I feel? You stupid woman. I’m choking to death here.” But in reality all she got was another “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh” In fact my entire conversation consisted of “Aaaaaaaaaaarh,” and similar such gagging noises because you cannot talk with a huge tube in your throat.
“Nearly there, Mr Burton. Just going into the stomach now. Look at the screen.” The doctor somehow expected me to want a guided tour?
“Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhh, uuuuuuuuurgh aaaaaghh.” Translation: You look at the bloody screen you evil bastard. I just want that thing out, right now!”
“You are doing marvelously Mr. Burton,” joined in the nurse “You still ok?”
“Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrggh.” - “No, I am not you brainless woman. I am choking to death; I can’t seem to breathe and my heart's going like the clappers.”
“Good.” she said sweetly, “Hang in there. Not long to go.”
“Hello here’s something?” The doctor announced cheerfully. “I'll just rotate the camera a minute. A bit of discomfort coming.”
“AUuuuuuuuUUUUUAHOOOuuuuuuurgh.” A bit of discomfort? You have to be joking - it feels like you have a front end loader excavating my interior.
“All good, nothing to worry about. Pulling out in a second.” He peered at the screen manipulating the controls. The second seemed to last minutes as I gagged, sweated and gripped the chair, hoping I might faint.
“Coming out now.”
“Aaaaaaaaagh.” Thank God for that - I thought you were going to want a retake.
“There now. You are really brave to do that without a sedative Mr Burton. How do you feel?” The nurse patted me on the shoulder.
I should have said. “I feel like a fool, if I had even the faintest idea how bad that was going to be without a sedative I would have demanded seven of them.” Instead the idiot macho gene kicked in again and in a raspy voice I croaked.
“Thanks, can I leave now?” I almost ran out of the building in case they wanted a re-shoot.
The moral of this story if there is one, is that when you are offered a sedative for even what seems like a minor procedure there is probably a very good reason why one is offered.
For men only: If you are having a minor operation and the attending nurse is attractive, she may activate the idiot, macho gene. I suggest closing your eyes and imagining that she has a row of black rotting teeth. Her breath smells like the inside of a bachelor's fridge and she has a mole the size of a horse’s eyeball on her chin with three long black hairs growing out of it.
I drove home with only a sore throat. When my wife arrived home later that day (she is the practice manager for a medical centre) I told her what I had done.
She didn’t think I was brave at all, like the nurse did, but she did say.
“You bloody idiot. Next time I’ll send you with a note.”
It’s so hard to be a hero sometimes.