I was about 10 years overdue for a colonoscopy when I finally had my first one last Wednesday. Everyone these days has either had colonoscopies or has heard much about them. We’ve been told that they are important procedures that can determine whether someone has, or is prone to, colon cancer. From what I’ve read, they really can be life savers. I procrastinated about as long as my family doctor would let me before finally agreeing to do what so many other Americans have done: allow people I don’t know to put medical devices into my poop chute.
Of course, I spent the day before the procedure starving myself and drinking lots of liquids. Then, at 3 p.m., I took 4 Dulcolax tablets. At 5, I mixed Miralax powder into 64 ounces of Gatorade and drank it up within one hour. I won’t go into detail about what happened after dumping all those explosives into my innards. For those of you who have done this, I am now a member of your elite club. For those of you who haven’t, don’t be afraid. It really wasn’t all that unpleasant, and, in a way, it’s somewhat restorative. When it’s over, you finally know what it’s like to be completely empty. This is an unusual sensation for those of us in the affluent Western World.
At any rate, I got up Wednesday morning, took 4 Amoxicillin pills (this is because I have a leaky heart valve and must avoid infections that might exacerbate the condition), and headed for Lutheran Hospital. Barb was my designated driver. You’re not supposed to drive after a colonoscopy.
At the hospital, I was led to a curtained stall and instructed to disrobe, put my clothes in a bag, put on a gown, and lie down in a bed. I was asked many questions by a very business-like hospital lady. My entire life, including all my good and bad habits, were summarily logged into her checklist. My blood pressure was checked and an IV needle was inserted into my right hand.
One patient was in the procedure room when we arrived and another waited in the stall next to mine. I watched as the first patient was wheeled out of the procedure room and into his stall. I listened to the nurses and aides and doctors pass by my curtained cubbyhole. I heard the colonoscopist (my word – he’s officially called a gastroenterologist) as he talked to the first patient. They discussed the fellow’s innards and symptoms and issues. I wondered what the doctor might find inside me.
In a few minutes, the second patient was wheeled into the procedure room. I waited patiently, watching the ceiling for insects and keeping an eye on Barb as she read the book she had brought along. Having not anticipated a wait of any duration, I had not brought reading material. I had to turn off my BlackBerry, so I couldn’t use that for entertainment. I just lay there, absorbing the ambience of the place and the communion of its occupants.
Eventually, and inevitably, a nurse came to my bed and told me it was time to party. Another nurse put a blanket on me to keep me warm. In fact, the blanket itself was very warm and felt good. My hands and feet had become cold during my wait and I welcomed the heat. Barb blew me a kiss and I was off, pushed and pulled into the procedure room by a friendly young woman.
In the procedure room I was moved into position near some equipment. I was asked to turn over onto my left side and push my butt to the right. I did my best to provide easy accessibility and was told that my efforts were successful. Someone hooked an IV onto the needle in my hand and I was instructed to breathe deeply to help the medication take effect. I believe that I held a conversation with one of the attendants for about 30 seconds before our conversation ended and I lapsed into total unconsciousness. I felt nothing, heard nothing, and sensed nothing during the next half hour or so as the procedure took place.
The procedure actually was twofold. I had a regular colonoscopy and also an upper GI, where a device was put down my esophagus and into my stomach. This was requested by my family doctor because I have a history of heartburn from time to time. My only hope was that a different instrument was used for the upper than was used for the lower. Because I was unconscious, I do not know. I would ask the physician but I’m afraid of the answer.
I remained unconscious for quite some time after the procedures. Barb told me later that I was snoring loudly when I was wheeled back to the curtained stall. I slept soundly and didn’t awaken when the physician came to give me a report on his findings. Barb could not wake me, so the he explained everything to her. After 45 minutes of sound slumber on my part, Barb patted me on my cheek in an effort to wake me up. I was able, somehow, to get out of the bed and put my clothes on. A nurse came with a wheelchair and I was wheeled out of the building to our car, which Barb had parked in front of the door. I got into the car somehow but don’t remember having done so. Barb asked me if I still wanted to go to Sara’s Restaurant for breakfast. I said yes. If you’re familiar with Sara’s Restaurant, you’ll know it’s not very far from Lutheran Hospital. I was sound asleep once again by the time Barb pulled into Sara’s parking lot. She gave up and drove me home.
Barb got out of the car to take some things into the house. I remained in the car, eyes closed, fumbling with the door lock in a futile effort to get out. Barb returned and helped me exit the car and get into the house. My first real memory of being home is that of eating eggs and toast that Barb prepared for me. It tasted very good. Eating after a colonoscopy is a real pleasure. Being empty is an interesting experience but not one you want to last for very long.
I slept for a few hours and felt good when I finally came to.
Barb told me what the physician had told her. Concerning the upper GI, he saw some inflammation in my upper stomach and he took a small sample of tissue to have tested for infection. He didn’t expect that it was anything serious.
Concerning the colonoscopy, the physician said he would like to see me again in 10 years.
I will count the days.