Colonoscopy: Pardon the Intrusion
When I turned fifty, my doctor was obliged to threaten me with a colonoscopy. Such things are required after a certain age, presumably by insurance companies, to make us avoid doctors, and ultimately lower medical costs. I had no complaints; but the procedure was recommended anyway. I figured this was my doctor’s revenge for all of those times I ignored him when he told me to lose weight.
The real reason for this, I suspect, is to begin the acclimatization process, by which I will be made used to the discomfort, inconvenience, and expense of the rapidly approaching golden years. Middle age is a pain. You can hardly turn around without being reminded of it. The only defense is humor.
Even so, I balked and evaded. This is apparently not uncommon. My doctor was prepared with a series of counter arguments. I told him I didn’t have the time, couldn’t get off work, and couldn’t get a ride to the hospital. A ride is required because of the drugs given during the procedure. I was advised that I could go in on a Saturday afternoon, and the hospital could send a van to pick me up. With my back protectively to the wall, there was nothing else I could say. The colonoscopy was unavoidable - It seemed I was to be stuck with it.
For preparation, I had been given a choice between a laxative or an enema – some choice. A few days before I was to show up, I was sent a package containing a couple of containers of what was purportedly laxative. This is an obvious misnomer, as there is no laxity related to their use. It was, in truth, one of the most un-relaxed nights of my life. Apparently the packages were mislabeled. They contained what could only have been explosives.
The liquid was to be mixed with water, and the entire contents swallowed. It was nasty noxious stuff, which made me gag. If you imagine a raw egg white, mixed with salt water, you have a pretty good idea of what this stuff was like. I wondered what could possibly be nastier than drinking this horrible stuff. I was soon to get my answer.
This ghastly substance is designed so that it will not remain in your body for long. However, for a while there was some doubt on my part, as to what the portal of egress might be. There was a really good chance that it was going to come out the same way it went in. Fortunately, everything came out all right in the end, and kept coming out.
I considered moving my television into the bathroom, and perhaps sleeping in the tub. You are warned not to eat the night before; but who could even consider eating under such circumstances? With so much to look forward to the next day, sleep was difficult.
I greeted the day, showering well, and making certain that I wore clean underwear – not that it would matter for long. Anyway, they would not be looking at my underwear. A van picked me up. The driver was far too cheerful. I wanted to tell him to keep quiet; but thought better of it. Prudence dictated that it would be better to remain on his good side, or he might take me to someplace even worse.
During the procedure, unaccustomed things are done to a part of your body which is rarely made the center of attention. Apparently this involves a garden hose with a camera attached. In the words of James T Kirk, they go where no man has gone before – though hopefully not for the same reasons or the same length of time.
I was wheeled into a room, which was perhaps the lobby. Had they brought me to the wrong place? It was brightly lit, and full of people. I had imagined a little private room with one guy; but no. This was it. I was the only guy in the room, with about eight women, including the doctor. Still, while undergoing a colonoscopy, it is best to go with the flow. At least I didn’t have to put my feet in stirrups. At any rate they were not interested in romance, or at least I hoped not. To them I was just another --- well let’s say subject.
The doctor asked me if I had any questions, before they started. I could only think of one: “Was this your first career choice, or were all of the cardiology classes full?” I am not certain which answer would have been more of a comfort. I never should have teased the doctor. She was probably tired of putting up with people’s crap all day.
I was advised that they would be filling the spaces with air; but I was confused. Wasn’t air supposed to go in the other end? Maybe they had me facing the wrong way. I was going to mention this to the doctor, when I discovered that my tongue was too big for my mouth. This didn’t matter anyway, because my mouth had moved to another part of my body, and I couldn’t find it. This was the effect of the drugs.
You should expect flowers, and perhaps candy, before considering permitting such liberties. I got neither. On the other hand, they did give me drugs, and what drugs they were. You are supposed to count back from 100; but I only got to about 96. They put me into a sort of a sleep; but this was a mixed blessing. Who is to say that they were not laughing, making jokes, and perhaps taking pictures while I was asleep? I didn’t care for the idea of being the butt of any tacky jokes.
I awakened in the recovery area. It was quite a bit louder than I had expected. It turned out that part of the recovery process was the venting of all of the air that had been introduced into the colon. There were apparently a number of people loudly recovering when I arrived. It was quite melodic in its own way – a sort of a symphony in A flat(ulance). It was incredible the highs that some could hit, and the lows that could be reached by others.
Was it the brass or the woodwinds? I eventually decided it was the (w)hole orchestra. Imagine the poor woman who works that area, having to listen to this all day. I assume that this is where you go if you are a nurse, and your supervisor is mad at you. So the ordeal ended not with a whimper, but with a bang.