Nasopharyngoscope: Up Close and Personal


May 15, 2013 by drandmrso

Last weekend I was at the hospital where Dr. O works. Don’t worry: no medical emergencies or anything for either of us. We were part of a stealthy group of the first- and second-year ENT residents filming a little video send-off for the fifth-years. One of the other residents on set had pillows stuffed in his scrubs. Another was wearing a red curly wig. And Dr. O both scoped and got scoped with one of these bad boys:

A video nasopharyngoscope. Read: a camera on a probe that gets shoved up your nose then down into your throat to examine your pharynx and larynx and such.

 But we’ll get to that in a minute—let’s start at the beginning. On Saturday morning I awoke bright and early in order to head home after the Rave Run. I met up with Dr. O at our house, then we made our way to the hospital. On the way there we got to chatting.

“I got to brag about you last night!” I said brightly.

“Oh yeah? How so?”

“Well I was explaining what ENT’s do because my friend was wondering why you had to be at the hospital so late last night. I told her you guys do a lot more than just ear tubes and tonsillectomies. You do emergency facial trauma surgery, tracheostomies, removing head and neck tumors. All that stuff.”

“Good job! Way to evangelize the field.” He gave me a high-five (actually, I don’t think that really happened, but it fits with the sentiment of the conversation). After a pause, “I hate that the field is called ENT. Every other field goes by the actual medical term. Ear, Nose, and Throat sounds stupid and it doesn’t even cover everything.”

I thought about this for a minute. “What about OB/GYN? That’s an abbreviation.”

“Short for obstetrics and gynecology. You don’t call them ‘uterus and vagina doctor.'”

He had a point. “Ok, what about GI?” I said.

He gave me a look. “GI is gastro-intestinal, still the actual medical term. You don’t say you’re going to the ‘tummy doctor.’ Think about it: pulmonologist, neurosurgeon, pediatrician, dermatologist, ophthalmologist. They all go by the correct name.”

By this point we had reached our destination (the ENT office) and the conversation ended. But because he’s my husband and because I keep trying to think of even just one other example and I can’t, I urge you all to start using the term “otolaryngologist” (or “otorhinolaryngologist” if you want to be super fancy) or maybe even ORL instead of ENT. Nobody will have any idea what you’re talking about, but you’ll get a virtual high-five from Dr. O. Ok, PSA over!

When we arrived I had to change into full operating room attire for our first scene. Dr. O took me to the linen closet to get some scrubs and I slipped them on. Then I put on a long white coat and clipped my name tag to the chest pocket. Finally, I mimicked the way he had tied on his surgeon’s cap. I held out my arms.

“How do I look?” I asked excitedly. He cocked his head to the side.

“Turn your name badge the other way. It doesn’t look like a doctor’s badge.”

I have to make a point here. Dr. O and I work for the same organization. When I started and got my name badge made they didn’t know my title yet so it just says my name. Here is an artistic rendition of our nametags, side by side:

Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!

Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!

But fine, whatever. I flipped it over so we wouldn’t get stopped on our way to the OR by someone with eagle-like vision. (I should mention here that what we were doing was really not that bad, but it would just be easier for everyone involved if we didn’t get caught.)

“Oh, and you can’t wear sandals in the OR,” he said.

I gave him an exasperated look. “You couldn’t have mentioned that at home?”

“It’s fine. We’ll get you some shoe covers.”

I followed him through numerous sets of doors that clearly said “Authorized Personnel Only,” feeling my pulse quicken at each one. We found some shoe covers and I finally felt like I looked the part. Except that I was probably uber-blushing as my skin is wont to do. After a nervous smile-and-nod with a couple of other people that were roaming the OR suite on a Saturday, we finally made it into the relative safety of an empty operating room where the other residents were waiting.

As soon as I walked in, laughter erupted. Laughter in the “look how cute and scared she looks!” sense, not in a mean way. At least that’s how I’m interpreting it. But one of the other real doctors immediately pointed out that I had to actually cover all of my hair, not just stick the surgeon’s cap on top. I glared at Dr. O, telepathically asking him why he hadn’t told me to fix my hat, and set to stuffing my hair up into the cap.

Filming commenced. All was going well. Until at one point I had to take the white coat off. As soon as I did I realized that I was the only one that didn’t have my scrub top tucked into my scrub pants. Sigh. Thanks again for the heads-up Dr. O! I guess I learned the dress code the hard way. Good thing we weren’t actually operating!

When we had finished doing nothing inappropriate in an OR that, the whole group headed back up to the outpatient treatment rooms. At this point I switched back to my civvies and we filmed the clinic scenes. But boys being boys (or maybe doctors being doctors?) Dr. O and Dr. M decided to scope each other, just for kicks, because neither of them had been scoped before and really wouldn’t it be a great way to empathize with patients if they knew what it really felt like?

Dr. O was the first to be scoped. Before sticking a giant tube in his nose, Dr. M shot some anesthetic spray up there. While all of this was going on, Dr. P was kindly narrating for me. “Basically what I tell my patients before I do this is, ‘I’m going to spray this in your nose and it tastes really nasty, I’m sorry.'” Dr. O didn’t actually seem all that put off by the taste, but mentioned that not being able to feel one side of his nose was weird. Then, they dimmed the lights in the room and focused the camera on the scope and suddenly, there on the screen, I saw the inside of my husband’s nose, magnified about a billion times.

The view, which looked to me to be pretty much what the inside of a nose should probably look like, caused the doctors in the room to simultaneously say, “Hmmm.” Dr. P again remembered that I had no idea what was going on, so explained that the passage was a little narrow, and that Dr. O appeared to have a slight deviation or something—but it was nothing to worry about.

Dr. M continued with the procedure, guiding the camera up and around some canyon-like pink canals and down into Dr. O’s larynx (that’s the voice box in layman’s terms). Since there wasn’t any blood I actually found I was able to keep my eyes on the screen! After positioning the camera just so, Dr. M instructed Dr. O to make a series of sounds and we all watched as his vocal cords contracted and expanded, like rubber bands being stretched and released. I marveled at how these little flaps of tissue could shift subtly and make such dramatically different sounds.

After another few seconds Dr. O’s exam was done and Dr. M was in the chair. The process was much the same, but I noticed I had this dorky grin that I couldn’t drop. That was my husband right there, dressed in scrubs, doing a medical procedure (albeit a harmless and bloodless one) on his friend! And he knows what he’s doing (obviously) and he knows what he’s looking at and he does things way, way more complex than this every single day. He is a doctor. He is a surgeon. I don’t think it had ever been made so clear to me, and I have never been so proud to say that I’m a doctor’s wife.

So am I going to let him scope me next? Not a chance. I’m perfectly fine as the observer, thanks!

2 thoughts on “Nasopharyngoscope: Up Close and Personal

  1. Dan says:

    I had this done to me once. It was highly unpleasant. I really thought I was going to throw up on the doctor and I didn’t really feel that badly about it.

    • drandmrso says:

      Yep, I think Dr. O has a lot more sympathy now. Although I don’t think he’s been thrown up on. He said it tasted really metallic, too…like he could taste the probe thingy. Eew!

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Dr. O is an otorhinolaryngology resident. Mrs. O was an English major and is easily grossed out by blood and guts. This is the blog where Mrs. O documents their adventures in (not bloody) detail. Enjoy!

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