Just Dessert

Let me tell you what it’s like eating through a tube in your nose.

Wait. Backing up a minute.

As the surgeon was telling me about my upcoming procedure, he had my full attention until he got to the part where I would be eating through my nose for a few weeks.

My brain hit the brakes for a hard stop. The doctor said other stuff–I know because I saw his mouth moving–but I don’t remember anything else he said. (Fortunately the Spouse was there to collect the data I missed.) I was stuck on eating dinner through a tube in my nose.

Most interesting was the nonchalance of the surgeon. As if he was telling someone with a new cast to be sure to keep it dry in the shower. Or reminding you not to eat after 11 p.m. the day before the procedure. Or that you could be reimbursed for parking the day of surgery if you got your ticket from the garage stamped by someone at the information desk.

After the surgery, I woke up to hear the surgeon talking to Spouse, telling him that I would probably be out for a while and that I would likely be unable to speak for a few days. I asked why that was, and neither could hold their surprise. Spouse because I was awake, and Dr. that I spoke. Spouse expected the latter.

I had an IV for the morphine, antibiotics and whatever else they were giving me, so we weren’t using the tube right away. And then it was hooked to the IV stand. It would be 30 hours before my nurse briefed me on how to feed myself.

The tube was thinner than I expected and kept in place by two stitches on the side of my nose. It was in my left nostril, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. The big deal was ensuring that it went properly into my stomach. I guess the food passed wouldn’t do much good otherwise. Fortunately the surgeon took care of that. It had some length, almost like a long strand of hair weave. It was a hint of when I had long hair–or any hair. I could flip it over my shoulder. The tube, that is.

After I got unhooked from the autofeed, I needed my training. The nurse poured this thick muddy colored liquid into a plastic hospital measuring cup. She pulled out this massive (to me) syringe with a long nozzle that she dipped into the slurry and drew the plunger back to fill it. The syringe screwed into my tube and she slowly pushed the plunger in and the liquid was delivered into my stomach.

It didn’t taste like anything, since going through my nose it bypassed my tongue and tastebuds. It was room temperature, so I couldn’t feel in passing through. I bet if if was hot or cold the change in temperature would register through my throat or in my stomach. The only clue I was left with was the syringe emptying.

It was my turn. It took 3 or 4 syringe fulls to finish the bottle. It was weird, but I slowly emptied the measuring cup. After emptying the tube, I had to “drink” some water to flush it out. I also would use the syringe and tube to take my meds, but in the hospital I was still taking them by IV.

When I was released, I had my supply of Ensure, liquid tylenol and my hospital laboratory kit. I placed it all on this red square melamine holiday plate with a poinsettia design that I got from Target.

Three times a day I pulled the plate off of the server and onto the dining room table. I’d lay out my supplies and completely and absolutely feed myself and take my medicine.  And the surgeon was right. It wasn’t such a big deal. The weirdness wore off and the family began to take it in stride.

I even got outside and took a walk with my alien-like tube hanging off my face freaking out at least one neighbor who was too polite to ask what the hell was going on. He just stood there talking with us. It was kinda sweet because I really didn’t want to talk about it and he gave me a bye. I don’t care if it was a happy accident. I’m still grateful.

I am a super fast healer–no doubt abetted by my slavish adherence to all rules by my health care team. [Others in my life get no such obedience and at least one would like me to occasionally be more compliant.] I was able to go back to mouth feeding after eight days, and damn were those mashed potatoes good. As was the cottage cheese.

Thinking of this on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my tube-feeding (I know, an odd celebration), my mind started playing Thru The Wire.

I drink a Boost for breakfast, an Ensure for dessert.
Somebody ordered pancakes, I just sip the sizzurp.
That right there could drive a sane man berserk.

I’m all better now. So I ate a steak.
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