Bruno Rushforth: Gagging for it

Why hadn’t I taken the benzos? The thought loomed large as I gagged once again on the flexible tube exploring the lesser curve of my stomach. Instead I’d opted to have the OGD with just an anaesthetic throat spray, and was now regretting having spurned the anxiolytic and amnesic delights of midazolam. Legal high or ten minutes of wretching? I think I’d made the wrong call.

And it was all down to pride. The youthful gastroenterology consultant – who’d been my boss three years previously when I’d been a feckless house officer – was kindly doing the procedure himself. I suppose some part of me wanted to show this exemplar of professional dedication (and part-time rugby player) that I could stomach the discomfort, if you’ll excuse the pun.

In all other respects this foray into the patient journey was a delight: a peaceful drive through the Yorkshire countryside to discover this brand new hospital, nestling among the hills, with its Victorian forbear standing empty next door, like an unwanted elderly relative.

The reception staff were welcoming and efficient. A nurse called me in and discussed options for sedation. Next, the registrar went through the consent paperwork and politely enquired how I’d feel if he did the procedure himself (“Er…OK”). Then the consultant popped his head round the door and explained things all over again. Another nurse was equally kind and considerate, making all the right, ‘You’re doing really well’ noises as the tube snaked down my repulsing gullet.

I’d put off having the endoscopy for nearly six years, for bothersome dyspepsia not completely controlled on PPIs. Afterwards I told my wife the good news – no worrying findings and not even signs of inflammation – and if I wanted to carry on managing things with tablets, then that would be fine. Her response, I felt, was a little harsh: “So in other words it’s all in your head.” Then again, she does work in hospital medicine.