Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Countdown to a Colonoscopy

Over two months before:

During a regular physical exam my doctor informed me it was time for a colonoscopy, a medical procedure everybody deplores.

But this was the beginning of summer. The kids and grandkids were here. The weather was beautiful. The beach beckoned. Relatives flocked in from near and far. The barbecue was busy grilling burgers, franks and lots of fresh veggies. Doctors and unpleasant procedures could wait.

One month before:

Procrastination time was over. The kids were gone, the busiest part of the summer over. Time to call and make an appointment. I probably would not be able to get one until fall. Specialists were always backlogged for weeks.

Uh oh. No problem making an appointment sooner than anticipated. Must be the August slow season. Most people, I guess, do not want to ruin two beautiful summer days. Aren’t doctors on vacation while people play? Apparently not.

Three weeks before:

Receive a thick envelope in the mail from the doctor’s office. One item was a referral for a blood test and EKG, to be completed before the colonoscopy. At the same time I got a phone call from the doc’s office requesting I go online and fill out a health questionnaire. There was a problem, however. The call came on my cell phone when not home and I could not write down the information. I did not remember the website to access.

Called the doc’s office and left a message.

Two weeks before:

The doc’s office calls back. I do not have to go online to fill out the questionnaire; I can complete the short form when at their office. Patients were having a hard time retrieving the form online.

I went to a clinic for the blood test and EKG. I purposely went on a Friday afternoon, assuming most sane people would not want to spend a Friday summer afternoon in a medical clinic. I was right. Only one person stood between me and my EKG. When I was done the clinic closed for the weekend. Even medical personnel want to enjoy their summer weekends.
EKG report.
Two days before:

Reluctantly grabbed the papers received in the mail and carefully read them. The paperwork included instructions on how to prepare for the procedure.

Buy an 8.3-ounce jar of Miralax, Dulcolax tablets, and 64 oz. of Gatorade or Crystal Lite. A quick trip to Rite-Aid and the items were strategically placed on the kitchen counter.

Ate a nice, leisurely dinner and splurged on dessert. After all, I was not going to eat for a day and a half. Hub uncovered brownies in the freezer. I savored the forbidden sweet and did not feel one bit guilty.

One day before:

The day started off like many others. I biked to the gym and worked out for an hour. Home again, prep could no longer be postponed.

Prep began with four Dulcolax tablets, tiny pills easily swallowed with a glass of water. The instructions on the box specify take one. Four, I am sure, speeds the process.

An hour later I began drinking the Miralax mixed with Crystal Light. I do not like Gatorade and cannot drink it. I was supposed to drink 64 oz. by 7:00 p.m. (never finished all of it). It did not taste bad; the Crystal Light lemonade overpowers any bad taste from the Miralax.

I poured a glass and went about my activities, staying close to the commode. I did not eat the entire day, as instructed, only sipping the drink all day, but did not feel hungry.

Suddenly it happened. An overall feeling of awfulness pervaded my body. Then the stuff hit and I made a beeline for the bathroom. For the next few hours I felt terrible. There is no sugarcoating the feeling.

A sudden fear invaded my consciousness.

What if I had to suddenly leave the house?

What if there was a fire, or gas explosion, or terrorists invaded my block. What would I do? I would be in the middle of the street and nature would very urgently call. There would be no place to go.

What if I had to run away quickly? I do not really run, but I could scamper pretty quickly if prodded. But if nature called, how could I? How awkward would that be?

I could stay. What would terrorists or robbers do when finding me hunched over the toilet? Shoot and take me out of my temporary misery? Laugh? Take pictures and post on YouTube or Facebook?

What if a tornado or another force of nature hit? There were no weather warnings on weather.com, but weird nature events can happen suddenly anytime.

What if an earthquake struck and I was on the toilet? Would it knock me off? Would the toilet, although securely anchored to the floor, tilt or fall or crack? What would happen to me? How embarrassing would it be when emergency workers found me cowering in the bathroom, interrupted in the middle of nature’s urgent call?

There was nothing I could do about any of these possibilities. Only hope it was another boring, uneventful day in terms of natural or other disasters.

The day wore on. I ventured outside once to get the mail. I did not travel far.

I wanted it to be tomorrow afternoon, at a restaurant enjoying my first meal in a day and a half.

I turned the TV on, watching daytime drivel. I discovered a TV show I had never seen -  Major Crimes. TNT ran the show, airing back-to-back episodes until the 9:00 p.m. summer season finale. Major Crimes, I later learned, is a spin-off of The Closer. It will not become must-see TV at our house. When the season finale concluded it was bedtime – finally – with the hope of sleeping until morning.

C Day

I was to report to the surgery center 9:15 a.m. We left the house early, leaving plenty of time to find the place, never having been there before.

Walking into the waiting room our first impression was – Wow – there are a lot of people here. It was a large room with lots of chairs, including three rows situated in front of a big screen TV. I guess it kept anxious patients occupied.

The receptionist checked me in and I sat down, waiting my turn. Hub left to enjoy a latte at a local café.
My wristband, provided on check-in, was reviewed several times to ensure the doctor and nurses were performing the correct procedures.
I was ushered into a small cubicle and told to strip and put on a hospital gown. I sat in a comfortable chair, feet elevated, and the nurse gave me an IV and noted my blood pressure. A couple of nurses walked in and out looking very busy, checking paperwork and monitors. Then the doctor – whom I had never met – came in for about 30 seconds, asked if I had any questions and said he would see me after the procedure.

A nurse walked me to the procedure room, IV dragging behind me. I ever so daintily hoisted myself onto the gurney, turned onto my left side and the anesthetist put the anesthesia in the IV. He said I would be out in 30 to 40 seconds.

The next thing I knew someone was shaking me awake. It took a couple of seconds to realize where I was.

And I felt pretty good.

The nurse gave me a small container of orange juice and two fig newtons. Cannot remember the last time I ate one, but I was hungry.

I dressed lying down – not allowed to stand yet – and in a few minutes the doctor came in. He showed me pictures of my insides, as if I knew what I was viewing. I could have been looking at pictures of the moon or deep-sea terrain. 

And I was out the door. Feeling a bit light headed, hub guided me to the car.

A half hour later I was in a restaurant enjoying my first meal in a day and a half.

And the experience was history.


  1. Really good description. In all its awful detail.

    Lucky you were out. I was partly awake.

    It's been five years. I need to make my appointment for December. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Excellent account. You cracked me up at your wondering about disasters that might make you leave the toilet:))
    I have never had one and really should I guess. However, I have been cleaned out before for other procedures and could totally relate.

  3. Oops, congrats for the great results.

  4. It's been a while since my colonoscopy, but you described it well. It's not the procedure but the prep that is so awful. And I guess you got all nicely cleaned out so he could look inside. Good that you had such fun that you could write about it with such humor! :-)

  5. I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have bookmarked you to check out new stuff you post.