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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Going Where No Man Has Gone Before

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/15/2024
Occurred: 4/11/2009
Page Views: 7063
Topics: #Colonoscopy #Humor
My first colonoscopy.

Today I had my first colonoscopy. When Mom had her first one, maybe 20 years ago, it was a miserable experience for her, one which not only hurt as it was happening, but for weeks afterwards. People are supposed to have a colonoscopy performed at 50 years of age, which for me was 8 years ago. But Mom's experience caused me to hesitate. Still, we've had a number of family members succumb to colon cancer. So it seemed like I really shouldn't put it off any longer.

My regular doctor gave me a referral to a couple of colon specialists. I chose one and made an appointment. You first have to see the doctor; you can't just walk in and have a colonoscopy like you can play paintball on a whim. I was in the waiting room rather longer than I'd have liked, but was eventually called in. Dr. Campbell was a handsome young man, which is basically what I hope for in a doctor, especially one who is going to become intimate with my nether regions. He asked if I was having any pain or bleeding, which I wasn't. I explained I was just having the procedure done because all my friends had had one, and I didn't want to feel left out.

Everyone warned me the "prep" was the hard part. I remember my mom had to drink a gallon of some kind of liquid laxative. However, the pre-printed instructions I received only required the following:

  1. No vitamin E, herbal supplements, aspirin, or ibuprofen for two weeks prior to the procedure

  2. The day before, liquid diet only, and nothing with red, green, blue or purple dyes

  3. At 1 PM, I was to take four Ducolax tablets

  4. Starting at 3 PM, 64 ounces (a half gallon) of Gatorade with an 8.3 ounce bottle of MiraLax powder mixed in, drunk 8 ounces every 15 minutes

  5. Nothing, not even water, after midnight

I pretty much broke all the rules except 5.

For one thing, the procedure was scheduled for less than two weeks from my original appointment. I did stop taken vitamin E and herbs at that point, but it was less than two weeks abstinence.

I bought two six-packs of Jell-O strawberry and orange cups, thinking I would eat just the orange ones on the liquid-diet day. But they turned out to not be evenly divided. Out of the twelve cups, only four were, in fact, orange. And in the early-morning light of the kitchen, I accidentally ate a strawberry cup for breakfast.

I ate the orange Jell-O and drank various low-sugar, high-electrolyte drinks all day Friday, so I never actually felt hungry. I 1 PM I took four tablets of a generic brand that was the equivalent of Ducolax. At 3 PM, since Gatorade is too sugary for me, I washed the MiraLax down with Gatorade G2, which is less sweet.

Actually, I should mention here that instead of pouring the MiraLax into a "64 ounce bottle" (which I didn't have) and shaking, I simply put the powder, about 24 ounces of the G2, and a few ice cubes into the blender. I then poured that and the rest of the G2 into an ice tea dispenser. If I'd have had a little rum, it would have been even tastier. As it was though, it tasted like orange vanilla and wasn't bad at all.

I was supposed to drink 8 ounces of the mixture every 15 minutes. I figured, the important thing was to drink it. So I poured some into a 16 ounce glass with ice and sipped steadily while we watched movies on TV. Each time it emptied, I refilled it until it was all gone. Perhaps because I was somewhat relaxed about the rules, I didn't stress and drinking the stuff was easy.

I've heard that some people have, shall we say, explosive evacuations as a result of drinking the prep stuff. In fact, I was instructed to put Vaseline on my butt so I wouldn't wipe it raw during multiple visits to the throne. I didn't use the Vaseline, but instead I just sat on the pot with a book. By the time I was halfway through it, I was done going and had to wipe just once.

(I did go a couple more times before morning. But this MiraLax stuff seems to be a lot gentler than the one-gallon stuff they used to prescribe.)

By morning I was as empty inside as George W. Bush's head. I took a shower and Michael drove me to the charmingly-named Colorectal Center. In just a few minutes they brought me back from the waiting room. I was given an I.V. tap, which the nurse insisted on putting in my right arm because I would be "lying on my left side". I warned her that the veins in my right arm are notoriously tricky to hit. So she used my right hand, and while I can't say it didn't hurt it was less painful than income tax and she did "get it" on her first try.

They had me lay on a gurney and rolled me into a room that even the nurses thought was excessively chilly. It's a new building, just a few months old, and they haven't got all the kinks out. I just figured the chill is so that, if anything goes horribly wrong, it will just make it harder for the police to accurately fix the time of death. But they did give me a blanket, so it wasn't too bad.

Dr. Campbell came in, we said hello but he was clearly not there to chat. In fact, they only do Saturday colonoscopies once a month; and he had plenty of others scheduled today. I was not to be put "to sleep" and so there was no anesthesiologist. Instead, a nurse pumped several large syringes of something into my I.V. tap. Almost instantly I felt blissfully unaware of anything that was happening to me, no matter how awful. It was just like being a Republican. Well, except that instead of watching Fox News I was looking at a screen with a picture of my butt.

You're right, that is pretty much the same.

To perform the colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a complex bundle of wires and tubes into the patient through the anus. At the end of this device is a video camera, light, surgical devices (to cut away anything bad they find), suturing devices (to close up whatever they cut away), and, as far as I know, a hedge-fund manager. It also contains some kind of steering mechanism and, as it wends its way further and further into unexplored territory, the doctor steers it through the winding corridors of colon all the way to the appendix.

A section of my colon with mild diverticulosis.I have a faint memory of seeing images on the screen in front of me, but only a slight one. I was supposedly conscious and able to follow instructions such as "roll over on your side", "bend your right leg" and "state your ATM pin code" but I don't remember doing any of those things. I also don't remember telling the doctor that "now we'll have to get married!" although apparently I did.

The procedure lasted about twenty minutes, during which the doctor found and removed just one polyp (a small, wart-like growth on the inner surface of the colon) and evidence of mild diverticulosis (pockets in the colon that result from insufficient fiber in the diet (which must have formed prior to my becoming interested in whole grain foods in my late 30's). Other than that, there were no cancers or other anomalies to worry about.

We were warned that the medicine I was given includes an amnesiac and so I mustn't drive, sign documents, or make decisions the rest of the day. I couldn't help but think that administering an amnesiac to a patient before performing a surgical procedure must cut down considerably on malpractice suits.

In any case, I don't remember putting on my shorts and T-shirt when it was time to go. I don't remember walking to the car. I do remember getting home, and deciding I wasn't dizzy and would be able to walk into the house unassisted. Which I did, though Michael was so concerned I would keel over that he inadvertently left my after-care instructions on the floor of the car.

So he didn't know I was supposed to be given a tentative sip of water to see if I could "tolerate" it, before being given another sip or two and then some broth. Instead, he made some scrambled eggs and bacon, which I devoured, fortunately to no ill effect.

I slept until 12:30 pm, and still felt a little sleepy. So we put a couple of DVDs into the changer and watched movies to while away the rest of the day.

By this time the effects of the medication had worn off. I was in no discomfort at all, not even a sore butt—and I've had dates regarding which I can't make that claim! So, overall, I would have to say that my colonoscopy was a success and nothing to put off if that's what you've been doing.

In fact, I can't wait for my next one!