SELF CARE: My endoscopy experience

The word endoscopy, is scary to me and still resounds a deep horror within my mind, even though I’ve had one. If your blood test is inconclusive, or your gastroenterologist wants you to have one, it’s truly worth going to. It’s going to help towards your health in the long term, a part of your body which you don’t see every day, so it’s kinda important that we know what the deal is inside there. It’s not only coeliac disease that people have one done to test for, and everyone’s experience with getting the letter for it through the door is different.

Here’s a few things about endoscopy that you may or may not know.

  1. An endoscope can be inserted into any natural opening (ew!)
  2. It’s a thin flexible tube, with a camera and light on the end, so doctors can see the procedure on screen.
  3. If it goes in your throat, it’s a gastroscopy, if it’s in your bottom, it’s a colonoscopy.
  4. It can be used in keyhole surgery, and other places to investigate unusual symptoms and help carry out surgical procedures.

In my case , the gastroscopy for coeliac disease, they take biopsy samples from your gut to then test for coeliac disease, just in case the visible damage gluten has done to your villi and unbearable symptoms isn’t enough confirmation. And then whatever your circumstances are, you’ll be sent back to whichever department sent you, dietician, gastroenterologist, gp or specialist. And you can sort out your happy gluten free life.

So with this in mind, I will give you my experience of my endoscopy.

After having numerous hospital appointments with haemotologists and cardiology and returning to my gp surgery too often. I got my blood test results for the antibody test for coeliac disease, and my doctor at the time told me that I had to go gluten free. I was back and forth between different doctors because I was at university, and I had attended more doctors appointments than lectures. This meant that I didn’t really care about the antibody test as much as I did getting good grades, and it wasn’t until I joined a well loved Facebook page for UK based coeliacs that I understood the antibody levels. By this time I had gone gluten free, felt a hundred times better, the doctor had stopped prescribing my vitamin b12 booster shots as I was deficient in it, and was ready to move back home after graduating.

Before the move, I had my gastroenterology appointment, and was told to go for a biopsy to confirm that coeliac was the thing that was wrong with me. I mean the iron and b12 deficiencies, the gargling pregnant like bloat whenever I ate and the extreme fatigue, the mr burns type body I actually had which concerned all doctors and nurses should have been enough. But some real confirmation not a ‘may suggest’ is needed here. After all undiagnosed, cd can lead to all sorts of problems in
later life.

I must also note, to get a proper result from your biopsy to get diagnosed, you MUST do a gluten challenge. For at least six weeks. Yes, who knew eating something that effectively makes you poorly is good for you?

The gastroenterologist told me to have two slices of toast each day, but I couldn’t help myself, I ate all of the things that I missed. KFC, subway, Burger King, Warbutons soft white loaf, even a normal cheap pizza. Ah, it was amazing (except for the crippling pain). On the first day of it, buscopan and peppermint oil on standby, I was wearing a floaty dress, went shopping. And I got mistaken for a pregnant woman the whole time. People let me have their seats on the bus. I definitely made the most of it.

The day of my appointment came, and I had to travel from home to my university’s hospital and have my biopsies taken. At 7am on a Saturday. I know I work in retail but that should be illegal. I’d read up on the procedure online so I was terrified. You get a meeting with the doctor doing it to explain what it is, check over any health conditions, ask if you want sedation, throat spray, and to sign a consent form. After asking online about which people preferred, I was opting for the sedation and throat spray. However after talking to the doctor, I was told that some people under sedation try to pull wires, cables, and the tube out from their throats. This put the fear of God into me. So I opted for just the throat spray so I was aware of what was going on.

Onto the actual procedure, There were a lot of doctors and nurses in the room, for one tube. I lay down on the bed, they explained the procedure, how it would take around ten minutes, what the television screen was for (to check visible damage) and they laid me down, put in the throat spray, and got started with the camera. So to put it in, they slowly insert the camera down the back of your throat to your stomach and into your small bowel for a sample. I choked and gagged so much, made so many weird noises, and my eyes watered like a bitch. It wasn’t that bad, air also gets trapped in your stomach, so it feels puffy, and in my case, I non stop burped.

The nurse was lovely, and rubbed my head, told me it was okay and put me at ease. I felt like a drunkard who was upset, couldn’t verbally communicate and needed someone to make it all better. That’s it for around 7 minutes until they get the camera all the way down to where they need to take the biopsies. The biopsies feel like a pinch, and it kind of feels sore, it’s the only thing I could feel properly because of the throat spray. Once they’ve got the biopsy samples, they take the endoscope out, it’s a lot easier Than getting it in. It’s pretty much over and done with in a jiffy.

After the procedure I got put into a side room where the nurse gave me some water and waited for the throat spray to wear off, they explained to me what the on screen results meant and that my biopsy results would be ready soon. I got them mailed to me, but some people get letters to the gastroenterology, dietician, etc. My doctors back home was pretty rubbish and is renowned in the region for not being able to get appointments, rude staff, and getting bad survey results. (Honestly, I got told to ‘eat a banana’ for my low vitamin b12 levels. Seriously? And to ‘stop crying, the ten minutes for your appointment is almost up’ by the doctor there) I had horrible anxiety and was really scared about returning to the surgery after then, and all of the other GP surgeries in my area were too full to register and only accepting new child patients. So I pretty much got no support after then, and had to do it on my own until I moved to southport a year later, where my doctor is helping me with my nutrition, diet and everything else in between.

And now I live a brilliant gluten free life, I’m happy, the healthiest I’ve been in a long time, and have a great support network both online and in real life.

So that was my biopsy experience. I really hope this helped some of you. Thank you for reading, and please subscribe and follow me on social media @thecoeliacsloth

Thank you, 

Georgina x

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