I’ve had my stomach pumped out.
I know that might come as a shock, but it’s true.
I’m sure you are now assessing this information and drawing your own conclusions involving an overdose of alcohol consumption here in French France, or my having taken copious quantities of painkillers for my lower back, but fear not, this is a story from many years ago when I was about 6 years old.
In those days, it wasn’t uncommon for leftover loaf crusts to be fed to the chickens with their gruel and as feeding time was a chore often given to one of the children, it had the advantage of giving me access to extra rations of bread.
Mother would bake her own version of Russian Black Bread which we would gnaw while sat sitting on the roadside kerb, under the lamplight. The dryer the crust, the longer it took to consume, thereby giving the impression of a larger and longer meal than a soft white crust would have given. If we were lucky, a smearing of beef dripping would be scraped over the crust… oh how I loved childhood. Happy days.
So bread that was destined for the chickens would often be pecked at first by yours truly, as extra rations shouldn’t be squandered so rashly on livestock. Those were hungry times. Permanently hungry.
However, in this particular stomach pumping instance, I hadn’t eaten not wisely but too well of ancient bread, nor had I gained access to a liquor cabinet, but I had instead ingested quite a few seed pods from the neighbours Laburnum tree…on the pretext of them being edible comestibles for a growing lad.
Mother thought otherwise and rang the Doctor who summoned an ambulance to whisk me orf to the local hospital tout de suite.
Staff consulted with the poisons and toxicology hospital, Guy’s & St. Thomas’, in London, who decreed my stomach should be pumped out pronto!
The passing of fifty subsequent years has done nothing to diminish the atrocity inflicted upon my personage.
Forcefully removed from Mother’s arms, she was excluded from the room for fear of her stopping the following from happening. Years later I asked her about this moment to which she replied that seeing me afterwards, she didn’t think she would have been able to stop herself from trying to save me from ‘the procedure’ that was inflicted upon me.
In the care of medical professionals, who were now armed with advice from London, I was laid on a hospital bed and restrained.
Being taken from Mother was one thing, strapped to a bed was something a little different.
Unable to escape, I watched as staff moved machinery closer, uncoiling a clear tube much like the one my late departed father had used when teaching me how to syphon petrol from a car. A lesson learned, which would stand me in good stead should the future event arise where I would need to remove fuel from a tank… ahem!
Back to the story… The medical team advanced upon my prone captive body, prized my mouth open and proceeded to feed the tube straight down my throat.
As soon as the tube touched the back of my mouth, my gag reflex, which I can assure you worked splendidly effectively, kicked in with great gusto, covering me and the attendees with soggy crust and diced carrots…not that I’d had carrots, but for some reason, there must be a store of diced orange chunks in everyone’s stomach, saved for when vomiting.
Without blinking, the nurses and doctors continued to hold me down and force feed the tube further and further down my throat.
Writhing did me no good. They were too strong for me. Tears attempted to wash the sick away, but there was too much of it.
Finally they stopped and turned to the machine on the cart that they had earlier wheeled alongside. Flipping a switch, it hummed into life and through the clear tube arose more stomach contents. I can remember thinking, as speaking was out of the question, ‘how much food can a stomach hold’, assuming this is where the tube had ended up, rather than passing right through the lower sphincter and into my intestines! Surely I had retched all the contents over me, the bed and surrounding throng?
As it happens, the answer was no, as up the pipe were sucked Laburnum seeds. I clearly recall the Doctor appearing quite gleeful as he pointed them out to me saying “Here they come!”
Now, my reason for regurgitating this story today is that I have just returned from the Laborizon Centre, Biogroup Biologie Médical which is a right fancy title for a laboratory that performs tests for those who feel a little poorly with possible Covid-19, or who need a test with a negative result to be able to travel across certain country borders.
Today in Chinon I subjected myself to a procedure that brought back the memory of that stomach pumping incident all those years ago. Not that I was restrained on this occasion, but that a twizzle stick was forcefully inserted where nothing has been inserted before.
Mother always said you shouldn’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. Advice in my opinion that also applies to the nasal cavity.
The receptionist had given me a small test tube. No longer than my middle finger and about the same diameter.
I was told to sit on a chair, tip my head back and lower my mask so that it still covered my mouth. All good so far.
Then, without warning, the nurse whipped out from behind her an implement of such length, I knew that this procedure was not going to be nice. What was that tiny tube for? This 24 inch gauge stick was never going to fit in there! Neither should it fit up my nose! But that’s where it was heading! Up and up it went until I could feel it scratching down and down towards my epiglottis! The sensation this twizzle stick then generated in her firm grasp was nothing less than appalling. Round and round she spun the stick as it bored into the back of the cavity and actually literally into my brain stem beyond.
I gasped in surprise as she said in French she wanted to do this for just a little longer! Yes I understood, no I wasn’t happy with the situation.
Then a moment later she was extracting the offending article and snapping off a section for the little test tube.
The exit door opened automatically and I was released back into the wild. For that was what I’d become. A wild creature to be probed and prodded, scraped and injected and then thrown back from whence I came. Much like the animals on the farm I once had to look after.
Staggering off into the bright morning sunshine, tears coursing down my cheeks, my nose running into the mask creating unwelcome damp patches that made oncoming pedestrian traffic cross to the other side of the road to avoid me, I cackled maniacally like a demented laboratory chimp!
Was this experience funny? No, but it tickled and hurt at the same time.
I drove 20 kilometres home still laughing in surprise at the experience.
If anyone thinks a proper Covid-19 test is a delicate little swab from the outer reaches, think again. It’s invasive, unpleasant and totally uncomfortable.
Just as with the stomach pump, I survived the test to live another day and I’m sure lovely reader, should you ever be placed in a similar state of trial, you will survive it too and be able to readily tell me how you felt by leaving a comment below.
Now I just need to wait for the result, which should be in by midnight and then, if proving negative, I can slip orf to foreign climes…
Carry on regardless!