It’s behind me!

by Bella Rum

colonoscopy-cartoonThe Prep

The colonoscopy is over. The drama in the cul-de-sac began at 8 p.m. Wednesday night. I consumed 16 ounces of fairly disgusting liquid. I did the gallon jug routine about twelve or fifteen years ago, and, no, I wasn’t doing that again. I insisted on the 16-ounce version this time, one 16-ounce cup to be consumed the night before the procedure with 32 ounces of water to follow – all done within two hours – and an encore performance the next morning at 6 a.m. Let me tell you, I was not happy about doing it again the next morning. Still, I think it was better than the gallon version, even though the gallon version is more palatable. The stuff I drank was really vile. H maintains that he will stick with the gallon jug version when he does this next month. Good for him, but I preferred this vile version to that vile version.

We arrived at the facility around 10:15 a.m. I signed the HIPPA agreement, checked a few boxes detailing my medical history and signed something that I’m sure promised I wouldn’t sue (even if I had to go  home with half my colon in a picnic basket).

The Nurse

By 10:30 they took me into the bowels of the facility, where all the magic happens. I got a matter-of-fact, you’re-not-the-first-to-ever-do-this type of nurse. I think she sleeps in her scrubs. She wasn’t Nurse Ratchet, but she was all business. That’s okay. I can do “all business.” Sometimes I even prefer it. “All business” types tend to be efficient, and I like efficient when it comes to medical care.

She led me to a curtained cubicle with a gurney and a fresh johnny on the pillow. She began to extract information from me about my meds. This drives me crazy because I don’t know both names of all my meds anymore. I know this is bad (Judy), but I don’t always know the generic names. She wanted to know the last time I took each med, but she kept calling them the name I didn’t know. I take a million medications now – something like that, and my memory… well.

Then she told me to remove my clothes, put them in the provided plastic bag, place them in the tray under the gurney and change into the johnny, making sure the opening was in the back. 🙂 Lovely. I did that. I got back on the gurney, reclined and waited. Suddenly I couldn’t remember if I’d removed my panties. A little investigation told me I had not. Up and off the gurney, panties down, panties in the plastic bag, back on the gurney, no one the wiser. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever done that, but I didn’t want membership to that group. Can you imagine? She returned to hook up the IV and blood pressure cuff, did a little futzing around and exited. I waited some more, but not long. We (patients) were lined up like sausages, there was money to be made, and time was money.

The Anesthesiologist

The anesthesiologist arrived. He was between thirty-five and forty and still had his boyish good looks. His sparkly teeth were used-car-dealer white. They looked like dentures, they were so white. Some people don’t know when to stop with the whitening. He talked softly, and I think I’ve gotten a little snarly about that. I can hear just fine, but not quite as fine as I once did, if you know what I mean. Before I gave a thought to how it would sound, I said, “If you want me to hear you, you’ll have to speak up.” And then something happened that has never happened to me before. My God, I couldn’t believe it, but I saw that smile flicker across his face. It was only an instant, but it was unmistakable…. that tolerant, placating, slightly amused smile that I’ve been known to give to grumpy, sharp-tongued “older” people when they said something that would have offended me if they were younger, but I found slightly amusing because of their advanced age. I was taken aback. Yes, sirree, I was.

It was one of those coming-of-age, life-passage moments, like the day your dad removed the training wheels from your bike, your first pair of stockings, your first kiss, etc. Now facing me and in a louder but only slightly less mollifying tone, he asked a few health-related questions, flashed me a final,  blinding smile, assured me he would “take good care of me” and left… never to be seen again.

The Hunky Neighbor

A male patient was placed in the cubicle beside me. Unlike the dashing, young anesthesiologist, I could hear every word he spoke as clearly as if he’d been lying on the gurney next to me, which he almost was. Separated by nothing more than a thin curtain, he was only inches away. If I’d poked the curtain, I would have touched him. You have no idea how strong was the urge to put my finger against that curtain and push it ever so slowly until it met with human flesh. What is the matter with me? Anyway, I wish you could have heard the treatment he received from his nurses. First of all, I only had one nurse, Miss By-The-Book. He had two young things fawning all over him.

Nurse 1 – How are you?

Male Patient – Fine. Fine.

Nurse 1 – Not nervous at all?

Male Patient – No. No. Not at all.

Nurse 2 – He’s a tough guy. A little thing like a colonoscopy doesn’t bother him.

Nurse 1 – Oh, you’re so furry. (I swear. That’s what she said.)

Nurse 2 – He’s a real man! A manly man! No boy here! (in a Southern accent dripping with honey)

I wish I’d had an iPhone. You’d be listening to this right now.

The Main Event

By 11 a.m. they rolled me into the room where the main event takes place. Another nurse hooked me up to monitors, etc. I laid there for about twenty minutes, waiting for the doc. He arrived about 11:20, asked me if I was ready to “get the show on the road?” I said, “Who could resist this?”

Then my lights went out. I knew nothing until I opened my eyes and said, “I love you.” A nurse was standing there. I suddenly realized where I was, and explained to her that when I wake in the morning, I always tell my husband I love him. She laughed, rolled me back to another curtained cubicle, and offered me a cup of juice. I drank my juice. By 12:05 I was given over to H’s care.

Home Sweet Home

I arrived at the facility at 10:15 and walked out the door at 12:05. That’s less than two hours. Talk about a well oiled machine. It takes longer to do my grocery shopping and visit my favorite farmer’s market on the same day. It’s a smooth operation there – Colonoscopies R Us. I expected to see a conveyor belt at any minute. I’d love to see my doctor’s portfolio.

H brought me home, heated up the chicken and rice soup we made on Wednesday for just that purpose, and we both took a nap. I slept for an hour and a half, woke to the phone ringing, ate some more soup, watched a few Everybody Loves Raymond reruns, and slept peacefully through the night. No dreams.

Apparently the prep did the job because the doctor told H that my colon was as clean as a whistle (I’m an overachiever in such things.). I had no polyps, and he didn’t even mention diverticulous. He told H that he would probably see me again in ten years. H said he didn’t tell him no you will not. But he will not. This is the last time I will ever engage in this little exercise. I think mid-seventies is a good time to retire this particular prep/procedure. Check that box. Done and done.

Having said all that, you really should get a colonoscopy if you’re in your fifties or sixties, and, yes, maybe even if you’re in your seventies – depending on what your doctor says. When he was about fifty, I nagged H until he finally got his first colonoscopy at fifty-two . They found pre-cancerous polyps, and removed them. He probably wouldn’t be here now if he hadn’t gotten the colonoscopy. Do it! The prep isn’t fun, but the procedure is like falling off a log. 🙂