"Shirt, pants, bra... OFF. Leave only your panties." The nurse hands me two hospital gowns. "One on the front, one on the back." She turns to leave. "Oh... you can keep your socks on."
"What about my boots?" I joke. I point to my yellow rain boots.
The nurse looks at me like I'm nuts. "Probably best not to."
Thank God for striped knee socks... I'll still be able to make a fashion statement.
One gown on the back. No problem... Just tie it up at the neck here and... we're missing one of the ties at the waist. Let's try the other gown... untie the two ties and then re- tie it up at the neck and... where's the other frickin' tie? Ahhhh... it's more like a house dress kind of closure. I get it. The other one was probably the same. Which pale blue, washed-a-billion-times gown would be more pleasing to the eye as the 'front'? There's a pale blue one with birds on it or an even paler blue one with teddy bears. Fuck it - my ass is covered, I'm going out there. I grab my purse and exit the curtained cubicle.
"Here are some crystals that you need to swallow with water." The nurse hands me a medicine cup with what looks to be Liquid Plumber crystals in it. "It's to give you gas so that the images come out clearer when you swallow the barium. As soon as the water hits them, they start to work - so you need to swallow it all down right away or it'll come out your nose. After you've swallowed, don't burp."
I swallow my container of pop rocks with the little bit of water provided. Don't burp? It's all I can think about now. Bloating... bloating... bloating... stomach extending.
"The radiologist will be with you in a moment - you stand up here." She indicates a wee dolly platform attached to a movable table.
"Do they have this ride at Wonderland?" I ask.
"Here is your barium. Hold it in your left hand. Right hand here." The nurse adjusts the handhold for me.
The doctor comes breezing in. Early 40s, blond, well-coiffed, wearing fetching trousers and... be still my heart... great shoes... He is also Australian. Well hello sailor... My morning is looking up. I smile winsomely at him.
"Good morning Heather. Any chance that you're pregnant?"
Well, that steals a girl's thunder. "Nope. I'm good."
Apparently my bloating must really be working because he gets the nurse to double check. Awesome.
"Now go ahead and swallow the barium Heather. Gulp it down as fast as you can."
I chug down the liquid chalk. Then wipe my mouth.
"Don't worry about that," the nurse says. "We'll give you a cloth afterwards."
Then the table lowers back and I'm asked to roll around... I snort, thinking of Terri Garr in Young Frankenstein.
"Keep rolling Heather - on your back and then side and then stomach. That's it. Keep rolling."
"Do I get a treat after this?"
kunnnnn-clunk... kunnnnn-clunk... kunnnnn-clunk... The machine goes off, documenting my esophagus and stomach for posterity.
"Hope you're getting my good side," I say flirtatiously, with a saucy wink.
"You're doing great, Heather... doing great... Everything's looking wonderful. Don't breathe, don't breathe, don't breath... and... BREATHE. You're doing great. It's all looking good, come on over and I'll show you what I'm seeing here."
The table comes to vertical once more and I step off the dolly platform with incredible grace before sashaying over to the doctor, throwing him my best smile.
"No ulcer, no tumors - you're looking great here. You have what looks to be inflammation in your esophagus - probably acid reflux. Do you take a lot of anti-inflammatories?"
"I been taking a lot for my shoulder."
"You might want to give those a rest and just manage with acetaminophen for now."
Handsome and caring... how lovely.
"Thank you so much. I'm so relieved."
"You're most welcome." He shakes my hand. "Glad I could give you good news." He gives me a bright smile which I return enthusiastically. This was a great way to start my day.
As I'm watching him finish up, the nurse hands me a wet cloth. "This is for your mouth - you can wipe away the barium contrast..." She motions to pretty much my entire lower face.
Awesome. I wipe away with the cloth - thinking I'll have gotten it all. I turn to the nurse. She shakes her head, points to my chin.
"Enjoy your day," says the Doc as he breezes from the room.
"You as well..." I manage, madly scrubbing at my chalky chin.