I Accidentally Got Drunk at the Doctor’s Office
I was sixteen years old. I had my own car, a little boxy 1985 four-door I’d bought from a cousin for $250. It had a CD player installed in the dash, a pack of cigarettes tucked into the sun visor, and a checkbook in the glove box. I had a pocketful of waitressing money, a pager with half a dozen interchangeable cases, and a boyfriend who was teaching me Spanish. I was headed to college soon. Life was mostly going my way.
It didn’t feel like so great, though, when I was doubled over from the stabbing pain in my abdomen.
It had been going on intermittently, unpredictably, for months, and I had tried everything. I’d taken psych meds and antacids. I’d had an upper endoscopy and a gastric emptying study.
Nothing much seemed to be the problem.
The doctor suspected maybe I had some mild reflux, but in order to confirm, I needed to undergo something he called a pH-probe study.
It sounded innocent enough. A probe was sent up the nose and swallowed down through the esophagus. It sat there for a day, monitoring the area just above the stomach opening, to see if acid was backing up through the sphincter muscle. And then, the next day, it was removed and the results were analyzed.
“Sign me up,” I said. I was desperate for some answers.
When I arrived at the doctor’s office on the morning of the appointment, my mother was already sitting in the waiting room. It was 7:00 and the place was deserted — there were no other patients, no receptionist, not even any doctors. My mom needed to sign the consent for me, but she needed to be at work early, and so we’d both driven our own cars and Mom would go to work while I drove back home. No big deal.
The nurse introduced herself with a smile. “Nothing to eat or drink after midnight?” she asked me. I nodded.
“Okay, very good,” she said, and handed my mother and me each a clipboard. Clipped onto mine was a four-page intake form, while Mom’s had a simple one-line consent form — essentially a permission slip for the simple procedure that was to follow.