It’s official. I am now a card-carrying The-Prep-Is-Worse-Than-The-Procedure Club member. Of course, I am talking about my colonoscopy. I never thought I would turn coat, but I did. Prior to going through the ordeal, I found it unfathomable to imagine there could be anything, I mean ANYTHING, worse than having a camera stuck in my butt, but there is…and it’s called “The Prep.”
The Prep, a.k.a. bowel cleansing, is a necessary evil. In fact, it is the single most important precursor to a successful colonoscopy. If your Prep isn’t up to par, your doc may miss one of those minuscule polyps and lesions that can lead to cancer. This is why patients are required to empty the contents of their colons on the eve of these procedures, and why I dutifully went about cramming 17 days worth of laxatives into three hours (per doctor’s orders – not my idea), which resulted in the most purgative, high-velocity, high-volume, longest running episode of diarrhea I have ever experienced in all my life. I’m not kidding. I think I may have pooped out a tonsil.
I know what you’re thinking, enough with the Prep. We want to hear about the colonoscopy. Here’s the thing. There simply is not much to tell. Honest. I know I said I wasn’t going to do it, but I did. I slept through the entire procedure and I can’t remember a thing past my lips going numb, my tongue growing six times its normal size and spittle rolling down my chin as I tried to form the word NO in answer to my doctor’s question, “Are you beginning to feel the effects of the anesthesia?”
You might remember my bold proclamation, something along the lines of UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WILL I BE ASLEEP DURING MY COLONOSCOPY. I’d never had anesthesia and was very anxious at the possibility of something going dreadfully wrong. It may seem irrational, but I was petrified I might never wake up. That is until the morning of the procedure, at which point I was more petrified I might never stop pooping long enough to fall asleep. Ever.
I pooped all night…ALL NIGHT I TELL YOU. Between toilet jaunts accompanied by personal hygiene coupled with A and D Ointment applications, I never fell asleep. NEVER. By the time I arrived at the hospital I’d been awake for over 30 hours, half of which I’d spent pooping, and was begging for a shot of something – ANYTHING – to knock me out.
I know. I know. You held my hand while I ruminated over making an appointment for this thing. You listened while I whined and moaned about laxatives and liquid diets. And now you want (if you’ll pardon the pun) the “poop” on the procedure. Okay. Okay. Keep in mind I do not remember much, but I’ll do my best.
They tell you to bring a buddy along when you’re having a colonoscopy so I brought my husband. We arrived at the hospital in plenty of time to walk the fourteen miles from the parking lot to the GI lab, including one stop along the way to poop (me not him). I checked in at the front desk, was handed the HIPAA thing and told to have a seat in the waiting area. I pooped. I sat down and did not read the HIPAA thing, opting instead to dig around in my purse for my Kindle. I pooped. I was called back to the desk to register, which involved providing the exact same information I’d provided the week before when I pre-registered by phone. I pooped.
A kind nurse escorted me to the patient holding area. It was this big room with the thermostat set at something like 42 degrees, and divided into lots of smaller, individual examining rooms.
“HERE YOU GO, SWEETIE.” She handed me a hospital gown, “TAKE OFF EVERYTHING AND PUT THIS ON WITH THE OPENING IN THE BACK.”
In lieu of solid walls, curtains separated the examining rooms from one another, affording very little privacy. I guess I wasn’t the only one who elected not to read the HIPAA thing because I could hear every word of the conversations taking place in exam rooms on either side of me. It is why I self-consciously whispered, “May I use the bathroom first?”
“EXCUSE ME, HON?”
Slightly louder, “I need to use the bathroom first.”
“GOOD GRACIOUS! ARE YOU STILL GOING?”
“IS IT LIQUID OR ARE YOU PASSING SEDIMENT?”
Why do nurses shout at you like you are a) deaf or b) not fluent in English?
“I’m not sure. I stopped looking.” Once I passed my appendix last night.
“NO WORRIES, HON. GO AHEAD AND GO, AND THEM GET UNDRESSED FOR ME. OKAY?”
A few other notable things happened in the patient holding area. It took three attempts, but my nurse was able to get an I.V. started and offered “a little something to help me relax.” I declined, prompted by the fear that any sort of muscle relaxant might impede my effort to pinch my butt cheeks together tightly enough to keep from pooping on the gurney. I received a visit from the anesthesiologist, followed by visit from my gastroenterologist who, along with my shouting nurse, whisked me away to whatever you call the room where the actual colonoscopies are performed.
I have no idea how long I was in that room, nor what happened when I was in there. It’s as if that little chunk of my life never happened, but it did and the good news is I woke up. Even better, I’m told I have the colon of a twenty-five-year-old, and better still is I won’t need another colonoscopy for a decade.
So there you have the truth about colonoscopies. The verdict: the prep is worse than the procedure. And it’s all good…in the end.
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© 2012 by Antoinette D. Datoc