Meet PEG

PEG is my new friend. PEG will be my companion for the next six weeks or so.

PEG is a bitch.

On Monday, as scheduled after radiation, I went in for PEG placement. Although I can still eat, it’s highly likely that due to the treatments I am receiving to my mouth and throat, I will become unable to eat at some point. Hence, a feeding tube is necessary, preferably before it actually becomes necessary. So, off we went to the GE (gastroenterological) Lab at the hospital for a bit of outptient surgery.

The lab is very, very cold. Even one of the nurses was complaining about it, which is rare, since just about every medical place you go feels like a meat locker. They gave me some fluids, then took me back for anesthesia. I had not eaten since Sunday night, and had no liquids since 8 AM. I was, therefore, quite hungry and very tired.

The anesthesiologist introduced himself, and said he would be giving me something to make me sleepy. I told him I was already sleepy. So he told me, ok, we’ll give you something to make you sleepier. Fine by me, I said, as long as I sleep through the whole thing. No problem.

The process, they explained, was pretty simple. They stuff a scope down my throat and look for an appropriate place to place the tube. Once they found it, they would do a little laproscopic procedure to insert the tube into my stomach and secure it inside with a small balloon. The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes or so.

Thye knocked me out, and the next thing I knew, I’m in recovery, with a tube sticking out of my gut. The papers said there may be some “slight discomfort” due to the incision and to the gas (air) they pump into you while they place the tube. Slight was a bit of an understatement.

What they did not give us was any instructions on actually using the thing, no syringes, and nothing for pain. The latter was the most important thing, as you’ll come to see soon.

After another 20 minutes or so, they let me go home. Mom took me back to her place, where I promptly aid down and tried to get a little rest. Alas, this was not to be. I had a few sips of Gatorade and water, and fell asleep for a few minutes. Half an hour later, I was throwing it up again. We tried again, this time wih water only, plus some Motrin for the pain that was rolling through my gut. That came back up as well.

By this time, the pain was beginning to be severe, with spasms rolling up through the incision area, causing me to actually cry out in pain. At some point, I finally drifted off again, only to wake up with even worse pain. I mumbled to my family that I didn’t think it was supposed to be this way, and please call the doctor’s office.

They did just that. The doctor called back, and told them to take me to the nearest ER for a contrast xray, to ensure the tube hadn’t been displaced by the vomiting.

Since I couldn’t stand up, much less walk – and because going in by ambulance is a surefire way to get into the ER treatment area rather than waiting for an eternity in the chairs – we called 911 and had them take me to the nearest ER, which was not at the hospital where we had to tube put in (but which was the hospital where my mom was treated after her heart attack, so we know they’re good people there). In the ambulance, my blood pressure was only 93 over something, so they were in a pretty big hurry to get me there.

We got pushed into a room, and then waited for the doctor. And waited. All the while, spasms are rolling through my abdomen, nurses are coming in and out, and I’m thinking that death would probably be preferable to this. Finally, the doctor arrived and prescribed something for the pain and something for nausea. Then we waited some more. Next up: contrast xrays, then contrast CAT scans. During these, they decided to go ahead and admit me to the hospital, since there was obviously something going on, even though the xrays and scans showed that the tube was still secured where it should be.

So, we were admitted and rolled upstairs. They got me settled, and with more pain medication, an IV of fluid, and more nausea medication, I finally drifted off to sleep.

The next thing I knew, it was more xrays ordered up and then an ultrasound, since the CAT scan had revealed a cyst on my liver. By now, we’re into Tuesday evening, and I’ve still had nothing to eat or drink since Sunday. I was not, as they say, feeling too hot.

By Wednesday, they’d decided that although they couldn’t figure out why I was experiencing so much pain from a relatively simple procedure that, from everything they looked at, went exactly as it should, that I needed to stay another day and have some food. Finally!

They brought me some broth and some warm jello for lunch. Dinner was chicken, mac and cheese, potato salad, and cake. At this point in my treatment, though, I can’t taste a damn thing because my taste buds are being destroyed, so it all tastes like sandpaper to me (and if anyone has any suggestions on something that might actually taste like something, let me know). I did eat, though.

Thursday morning, I wasn’t feeling too well, mainly because I think I may have eaten a little too much the previous night, even though I didn’t eat very much. I did eat a little breakfast, though: grits, a little coffee cake (bread-based things are hard because they dry out so quickly, so not too much of this). The nurse showed up to demonstrate how to use the tube, and accidentally pulled up a little of my stomach content into the tube, which then leaked onto my gown. It smelled, naturally, like vomit, since technically that’s what it was, even though it came out of the tube instead of up through my mouth. Nasty.

Cleaned up, though, I finally got discharged around noon, since my radiation oncologist had called asking them to get me back to treatments ASAP, as I had missed two, plus my chemo. Off we went to radiation.

Afterwards, I took one of the pain pills the doctor had prescribed. Big mistake. I wound up vomiting and heaving for the remainder of the afternoon and into the evening. So, from Sunday to Thursday, I ate a grand total of three partial meals. I was quite unhappy Thursday evening with all of this, and then on top of that, plowing through all my mail off and on, I found an email from the person I had been seeing, saying they were (in a nutshell) leaving. I can sort of understand this, given that it’s quite difficult sometimes to deal with serious illnesses. My mom, talking to me, said you know, you’re kind and generous to a fault, but you spend a lot of time worrying about other people and their feelings – like when I was apologizing to my family for all the puking Thursday. So maybe this was better, and I could just concentrate on myself and just be selfish for a change.

It has not been a good week.

I’ll try to get a picture of the PEG against my gut at some point. Hey, maybe even some action photos! That would be cool.

For those of you going through PEG placement, I wouldn’t take my experience as the norm, since from everything I’ve read, both medically and anecdotally, my experience is quite rare. It shouldn’t be anything like my experience past the actual placement itself.

One thought on “Meet PEG”

  1. bummer.

    i’ve heard that things that are spicy open up the taste buds more so you can taste the things you’re eating better.

    i guess that’s why pepper is always on the table. course i dunno if it’s a good idea to be putting spiciness in your tender gullet.

    i’m in houston, and withstood rita. kinda tired cuz i wanted to be awake during landfall.

    just grabbed a scrpture from the little box…..”The LORD will grant his people with peace.” PS 29:11 I hope you get some good rest.


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