transesophageal echocardiogram - try saying that three times fast


So maybe I'm slightly addicted to medical dramas. I get a kick out of hearing medical terms that I have become very familiar with and I enjoy watching the various procedures that I have had done. Look at me: *Almost Famous...*

Lately I am on a 'House' kick. Prior to that it was 'Private Practice.' Although that could be in part because Kate Walsh (Dr. Addison Montgomery) was my TV girlfriend for a while. I know, I know; Dr. Gregory House doesn't have the best bedside manner but I can't help but imagine him coming in with his team and giving me the diagnosis I've been waiting for... Plus he has such kind eyes.

Courtesy of Google Images

There are so many times the TV doctors perform a test that reminds me of something I had. Maybe I'll keep a running list. Anyway - today's post, thanks Greg, is about the time I "had" a Transesophageal Echocardiogram (with a Bubble Study). This test records ultrasound images of the heart and the bubble study - an add on - is a saline solution that is injected into your arm while the ultrasound is being done to track where the solution goes and how it flows through your heart. I think it's a way to determine if you have blockages and/or holes in your heart.

So this type of ultrasound isn't the good ol' cold blue jelly on the chest kind of test. With this one the patient swallows a tube in oder to get the ultrasound pictures. No big deal.

This is what I was told:

  • The transducer, about the size of a normal piece of food, is mounted on the end of a flexible tube, about the size of your index finger. The tube is placed in your mouth and guided down your esophagus (swallowing tube).
  • You will be given medicine to help numb the back of your throat. This will make swallowing the tube easier. This medicine will stop your gag reflex.
  • You will be awake during the test, but you will be given medicine to make you more comfortable and relaxed.
  • The procedure will take 1½ to 2 hours. 

This is what really happened:

  • The transducer - Uh I'm not sure what kind of food these "medical experts" eat, or  maybe they don't chew 32 times because this "size of normal piece of food" was not going down my throat! And as for the tube being about the size of my index finer... I have extremely small hands.  
  • I did get the medicine, a spray. It did numb things. Apparently nothing can stop my gag reflex.
  • Define "relaxed."
  • 3-4 hours later, I was allowed to go home
This guy makes it look so easy:

Photo from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
I have a very sensitive gag reflex. I told them that when I got there. I'm the person who easily gags while brushing their teeth. I am prepped and ready to go. My throat is sprayed. And the team gives me medicine to help me relax (intravenously, thank goodness because I often gag when I need to swallow pills.) They must have given me the "good stuff" because I hardly remember the procedure.

It went something like this:
I am panicking because they are trying to shove this GIGANTIC thing down my throat and I am not cool with that. So I am gagging and also using my arms to fight off the nurse. I feel scared and angry. More nurses come in and they up my drugs and switch to the smaller pediatric tube.  I'm still scared and angry. I wake up at home the next day with a foggy memory.  I still can't remember who drove me home. Weird.

The next morning my throat is so sore. I feel like they ripped it apart. Then I panic (I'm a gifted panic-er) and vaguely remember being quite aggressive with the nurses. What?! So I immediately call to apologize for my behaviour imagining that I punched a few people out.

"Hi this is Jessie, I was in yesterday for a bubble test and..."
slight laughter on the other end "Yes hi Jessie, how are you feeling?"
"Well I'm fine but I wanted to call to say that I'm so sorry if I hit a nurse yesterday, it's really not like me, I don't really remember what happened."
more chuckles "Oh no Jessie, don't worry. You didn't hurt anyone. We had you so drugged up and we had 5 people trying to get that tube in you, but even with the maximum amount of medication we could not get your gag reflexes to stop. You did NOT want that tube in you! But you were like a ragdoll (more laughter) there's no way you could have hit anyone, so don't worry. But we weren't able to perform the test after all. Even after switching to a smaller size tube. Your throat will be sore for a day or two."

So turns out that my one aggressive outbreak at the hospital was all in my head considering my ragdoll status at the time. But with lots of tests to come, who knows what my medical future holds. KA-POW.


  1. Hi Jessie,

    The way you bring humor and light-heartedness to the difficult situations you are facing is absolutely beautiful. I laughed out loud :) Thank you for sharing and making us smile. Sending love your way xx

  2. HIya Emily,
    I'm thrilled to hear you laughed out loud. That's what I'm going for. Thank you for your kind words. And lots of love to you too.