Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why I hate Banana...and the periodic table

this story contains graphic recounts of vomit. I personally find vomit funny. If you don't, read with caution, so as to avoid puking on your PC.

Continue at your own risk

In 2005 I had a rare stomach problem that caused my insides to form knots that'd make a Boy Scout proud and a sailor curse. I'd go into details, but that story isn't the one to be told here and now. This story is but a small piece of that larger tale. The imperative back story here is that I had been struck with an inability to keep anything down, from three course meal to three ounces of water, without regurgitating any attempt, accompanied by a putrid crimson bile. This all began on an international flight preceding a ten day tour of Scotland, so I spent two weeks hurling in the beautiful Scottish braes. The Scottish physicians deemed it a viral infection, and sent me on my way.

Upon return home, it was clear that something more than a viral infection was afoot. I still hadn't retained anything since the upheaval began. So the stateside doctors admitted me into the hospital, and began their battery of pokes and prods. They decided that something needed to be done to prevent the acid in my stomach from building up and causing me to vomit. Their solution? A torturous device known as the “NG tube”. A wiry RN who looked as if he'd been smoking unfiltered cigarettes since he was seven came in and started off in a playful yet slightly annoyed effeminate voice.

“I'm going to tell you right now, this is going to suck. I'm going to shove this little tube up your nose, where it will go down the back of your throat and into your stomach. You are going to want to gag, puke, and probably punch me in the balls. Just keep trying to swallow, and it'll be over before you know it.”

Fifteen minutes later, I'd been violated in a way that I've never known. Laying in my bed, involuntary tears rolled down my flushed cheeks as I struggled to regain my breath. I continued to repress the spasms of regurgitation, and finally calmed my body down enough to speak without another bout of dry heaving. For the next few days, I'd be a mouth breather, resigned to a dry throat and an awful snore that could wake the dead.

The panel of physicians decided some scans and X-ray's would be the best route to discerning the cause of these projections. The process was simple: In fifteen minutes, I drink a half gallon of Barium (periodic element #56) which is opaque when viewed in X-ray images. If they see where the Barium stops flowing, they gain further insight into what is stopping my digestion.

So there in the sparse hospital room filled with outdated magazines and sterility, I began my imbibing. The nurse presumptuously assumed that banana flavored Barium would be the flavor I preferred. Not that I wouldn't, but in retrospect, I would have liked a choice. Although I hadn't kept down more than a tablespoon of liquid in the last ten days, I managed to choke down almost a quart and a half of the lukewarm liquid of milkshake consistency. It's thick, chalky substance left a mucous like film on my palette and a sickening scent of banana in the room.

Twenty minutes later, the same husky voiced RN impatiently told me I'd drank enough. He hurriedly wheeled me to the X-ray room and lifted me onto the cold table. The X-ray technician sidled me back and forth on the slab, adjusted the gargantuan mechanism that loomed above my torso, then retreated to the safety of her control panel. The instant I lost sight of the technician, I also began to lose the ability to keep down my periodic elements. It was as if the viscous barium with which I'd engorged my stomach was now flowing back upstream, a tsunami of elemental fury, crashing toward my mouth. I choked out a few syllables that, if pieced back together and cleansed of dry heaving and tear filled gasps for oxygen, might resemble


Unfortunately my heaving cries for mercy fell on deaf ears in that cold medical facility. With no strength to drag myself to a dignified waste can, I instead opted to cock my head to the left, let out one last cry for salvation, and wretch my periodically charged puke in a manner that would put Linda Blair to shame.

Evidently the convulsions that gripped my body were not conducive to taking pictures of my innards, because the X-ray technician soon returned from her mysterious control panel with a look of irritation, which upon assessment of the situation, turned to absolute horror. As she stood there, uncertain of the protocol and not fully dedicated to keeping her own bile down, I stretched out a barium covered arm to indicate the target of my relief – a waste can in the corner of the room. Instead, the technician dove back into the safety of the control room, as it not only protected her from X-rays, but also the projectile elements spewing from my face. She soon returned better equipped for the situation.

She hurried to me with caution and a small, pink, kidney shaped dish. Thrusting it into my hands, the technician beamed as she began to comfort me

“It's Ok honey, just throw up in...”

She was not afforded the opportunity to finish her sentence, because before she could utter another word, another round of bile infused barium summoned itself from the depth of my emaciated abdomen and forced itself upon the world. I directed the wrath towards the dish, and watched in helpless dismay as the vomit rushed into the kidney dish with such force that it immediately sprayed back out in a fan on all sides of me. The caution that the woman took in delivering the dish was proven vain as the final contents of my stomach came to rest on her flowery smock.

My stomach had completed its revolt against the barium, and was proven victorious. The carnage that laid before me was overwhelming. My backless medical gown was soaked in creamy gastro-barium. My wheelchair was spackled in it. A small portion of the upheaval had taken an alternate route to freedom – following the NG tube through my nasal passages and out my left nostril. It is no understatement to say that I had puked everywhere.

Even in the midst of that exhausting exercise in abdominal rebellion, I could see an element of humor in it all. They eventually got me cleaned up, preformed surgery, and sent me on my way. The blockage was successfully removed, and I have remained relatively healthy since. But I always laugh about the final tableau that is in my mind. Covered in my own vomit, crying tears of relief while a beleaguered nurse dab at me in vain with a damp washcloth.

The image is so pitiful, who wouldn't crack a smile? There must be an inherent reason that bananas are so funny...


  1. Barium is awful. Had it thanks to my unneccessary appendectomy. NEVER AGAIN.

    This had me cackling at my desk. Thank you!

  2. I had a similar experience... with cooked carrots in my mother's bathroom as a child. I will never eat cooked carrots again.