The ins and outs of the NG tube experience
What is an NG tube?
An NG tube is a nasogastric tube, literally a thin, hollow tube that goes in the nose and ends in the stomach. It is used for relieving pressure on your bowels so that things don’t get too backed up (such as in the case of a blockage or ileus), to give your gut a chance to relax and decompress (such as after bowel surgery), or even to provide food a detour to the stomach if chewing or swallowing is not possible.
Did getting an NG tube hurt?
No. It was very uncomfortable but not painful. What helped me was having a small cup of water and trying to swallow as many times as I could while they were inserting the tube through my nose. That helped with the gag reflex and let the tube go down more quickly (it also gave me a job to focus on to distract myself from the discomfort).
The feeling is kind of like when soda comes out of your nose, but in reverse- it kind of burns in the sinuses and it feels like you want to blow your nose but as far as painful, I think the anticipation of getting the NG tube was worse than the actual experience of it.
What was the worst part of having an NG tube?
I had an NG tube because of ileus, so it was a little bigger than the ones used for feeding, and because of that my throat felt really raw after having the tube for several weeks. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do to help with that but talking made it worse- so I tried to use a writing pad more than my voice to give my throat a break.
Did having an NG tube make you feel better?
Yes! I had paralytic ileus, basically, my intestines were completely asleep and not moving anything in or out, but my body was still producing gastric contents and the like. So, I was extremely uncomfortable and in a lot of pain because of how full my intestines were. My NG tube was used to relieve that pressure and I immediately felt less nauseated and crampy once it got to work.
Do you have any suggestions for helping NG tube anxiety?
If you are hospitalized while you have an NG tube like I was, the best suggestion that I can give you is to find some way to occupy your time. Bring in some books, coloring sheets, a video game, anything- being a patient in the hospital can feel like the hardest waiting game ever, so finding something to distract you from the monotonous and sterile environment can be really helpful.
My funny NG tube experience 😊
I have a confession- I did not read any of the Harry Potter books until I was 22 years old. So, what more perfect time to cram through the whole series than while I was holed up in the hospital with a tube coming out of my nose?
Fun fact about me: I have extremely vivid dreams. This is important because, after wrapping up the Chamber of Secrets, naturally I had a dream that I was being attacked by a giant snake. In this dream, I channeled my inner wrangler and grabbed a hold of the snake like I was the late, great Steve Irwin and I victoriously held the snake up to show it off!
Then I woke up.
It was not a snake that I was wrestling with, it was my NG tube, which was then dangling limply and uselessly in my raised fist.
I know that healthcare workers hear a lot of crazy stories, but I think having to explain that one was a first for them.
And yes, unfortunately the tube had to be reinserted that morning, to my utter disappointment.
I hope this read gives you a little peace and a little laugh when next you think of NG tubes!
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