09 July 2013

I do not think that word means what you think it means

'Poppies/Amapolas', by Fernando Marti
from the Unkie Dave Collection
Sometime in 2011 I had a gastro-nasal tube inserted under sterile, medical conditions. Or rather, a number of medical professionals attempted to insert a gastro-nasal tube, a number of times, all horribly unsuccessfully.

At the time I was being fed through a tube in my arm, and was in somewhat of a weakened condition. By that stage I had lost 30% of my bodyweight and was in such agonising and constant pain that I was also attached to a self-directed morphine drip, pumping blessed relief once every six minutes or so. I was about to undergo a surgical procedure designed to relive some of that pain on a longer term basis, but beforehand I needed to have whatever paltry contents remained in my stomach removed as a precaution.

This did not go well.

A gastro-nasal tube is a long piece of hard but flexible tubing designed to enter the body up through the nose, down the back of the throat and on through the oesophagus and in to the stomach. The procedure was initially performed by a nurse, who told me exactly what was going to happen, and said that I may experience some discomfort.

I experienced some discomfort.

The tube went up my nose and back down my throat, and the pain was like nothing I have ever felt (and I was on morphine at that stage for the ongoing, other pain). My sinuses exploded and my head felt like it was on fire, but that was mild compared to the horrific burring as the tube caught against my throat walls on the way down, like a sandpaper of broken fingernails on a blackboard. Then the gag reflex kicked in, trying desperately to expel the tube by heaving and vomiting whatever was left in my stomach, to take the tube with it. I couldn't breath, gulping for air and yet each gulp brought nothing but grazing of my throat by the tube, triggering yet more gaging and heaving. Uncontrollably I trashed and writhed, every fibre of my body rejecting this alien object, as the tears streamed down my face and I cried out, "Please, stop" but my words were silenced at birth by the tube in my throat, causing me to gag and writhe even more.

The nurse gave up, she saw I couldn't take any more, and removed the tube, pulling it out like an endless scarf from a magician's sleeve.

But the tube had to go in, so she called for assistance. A second nurse came and the staff doctor, who took control while the two nurses physically held me down.

Again they snaked the tube up through my nose and down my throat, again they tried to get it to my stomach but again my body rejected it, my cries and tears audible throughout the entire ward. Even with two nurses physically restraining me, and me trying so desperately to let it happen just to get it over with, the doctor couldn't do it. He just couldn't make it work, and couldn't see me go through so much pain and suffering.

I was in hospital with a pain so bad that only morphine could treat it, and that still paled into insignificance in comparison to the horror I experienced with a gastro-nasal tube. It was, without doubt, the single worst experience of my entire life, something that still gives me nightmares.

As we speak, 45 detainees in Guantanamo, a torture camp that President Obama ordered closed as his very first act upon assuming the Presidency in 2009, are being force-fed twice daily through a gastro-nasal tube. Every day each of these men, many of whom have yet to have, and may never have, any charges brought against them and are guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, have to endure my worst nightmare, and worse.

Not once, but twice.

And the tube insertion is just the beginning of their horrifying ordeal.

The rapper formerly known as Mos Def volunteered to be undergo this procedure to highlight the inhumanity of the situation. The video of this can be found on the Guardian here, but I warn you, it is very graphic and deeply disturbing. And that is the point.

Every day 45 men are tortured in this way, on the orders of a President who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

I guess that whole "Hope" thing didn't mean what we all thought it meant.


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