Have I ever told you about the time my old friend Jay nearly died? We were at Perkins with a group and Jay took a drink of soda while talking or laughing and choked. This was not the typical sputtering and gagging that we all encounter when something "goes down the wrong pipe." Jay stopped breathing. You've probably been around someone when this happens: they gag and try to swallow, being casual, not making a big deal. A worried look comes over them and they try harder to clear the problem by flexing and expanding the throat muscles. People stop talking and exchange concerned looks. Someone might make a joke to gauge the seriousness of the situation. A straight question would be more appropriate but few of us have been in this situation often enough to think clearly. Panic overtakes the victim, who stands and tries anything to begin breathing. Everyone else is up, wondering if they can live up to this moment--do what is required. With Jay, we were at the point of getting up and clearing space around him in case the heimlich would need to be done, when suddenly, spontaniously, he began to breath again. I had no idea that a person could choke so severely on a liquid. It was terrifying.
Something like this happens to Simon a couple of times almost everyday.
So, he is going to a "Barium Swallow" tomorrow.
[He] will swallow a suspension of fine particles of Barium Sulfate in an aqueous solution with sweetening agents added. Then, we'll X-ray his esophagus. The suspension appears white on the x-rays, and outlines the internal lining of the esophagus.
Barium sulfate is the white crystalline solid with the formula BaSO4. It is very insoluble in water and other potential solvents. The mineral barite is composed largely of barium sulfate and is a common ore of barium.
Although barium is a heavy metal, and its water soluble compounds are often highly toxic, the extremely low solubility of barium sulfate protects the patient from absorbing harmful amounts of the metal. Barium sulfate is also readily removed from the body.
The compound works due to barium's relatively high atomic number (Z = 56), since large nuclei absorb X-rays much better than smaller nuclei.
It doesn't sound too traumatic. I'm not sure how they will do the X-ray. Ideally we would wait for him to fall asleep in order to hold still enough, but I don't know how much time we'll have after the swallow.
I also don't know what they are looking for or what they will be able to do when they find it.
As a matter of fact, if it were not for Wikipedia, I wouldn't know squat--a sad state of affairs indeed.
Of course, I'll completely forget to post an update after this is over to let you know how it went, so just imagine the best.
Later, Perkins fans