Colon Wars by Sue Oakes
OK, I confess, this is another baby boom rant. I believe that there is fast becoming a new milestone for middle age (you know, that indeterminate period that keeps beginning later and later); a delightful little medical procedure called the Colonoscopy. My husband, being slightly older than I am, has the distinction of going before me into this nether land. For those of you who are uninitiated, this procedure involves using a scope (hence the name) with which to view the inside of the large intestine (colon), to check on its general health and to spot the early signs of Colorectal Cancer. Just considering the logistics of such a task will give you an appreciation of the anguish, denial and procrastination which sometimes accompanies it.
First, let us consider the preparation. In order for the physician to view the walls of the colon, they must be clear of all solid matter. Since you cannot stop using your colon for a few days, you must be flushed out post haste. My husband likened it to an air aid drill which commanded all residents of his colon to evacuate now, and to take all their worldly possessions with them. This is accomplished in different ways, depending upon the particular practice of the doctor. One method, which I have heard my father and father-in-law (both colonoscopy veterans) complain about, is the ceremonial consuming of a gallon of electrolyte swill within a day of the procedure. The liquid must be guzzled at regular intervals until it is gone, or you are ready to float away, which ever comes first. My husband’s physician used a slightly different method. He had to drink a much smaller quantity of liquid, once the night before, and once that morning, along with several enemas for good measure. The patient may only eat a clear liquid diet the day before (jello, broth, ices, black coffee or tea, etc.) I should add that during this prep time, one must not stray more than 25 feet from a bathroom which must be reserved for one’s exclusive use.
The procedure is over very quickly and you have the option of being awake or out. I have a tremendous sense of medical and academic curiosity, and this is something even I would pass on. He says he remembers nothing from the time the anesthetic went into his arm until he was sitting up getting dressed. However, there is more to tell here.
I came to pick him up after the procedure. The first clue that all was not normal was when I was led in to the exam room. He was sitting up on an exam table with his shirt on and a paper sheet (very skimpy) draped across his lap, not very strategically, I might add. Personnel (both sexes) were going in and out of the room, and he did not seem the least bit concerned by his state of exposure. (He was literally flapping in the breeze.) Not only was he undisturbed by his partial nudity, but he seemed to be totally unconcerned (or inept) about putting on his clothing. It took the doctor and myself a few minutes to direct his legs into his pants. He seemed lucid enough, but later in the doctor’s office when he asked questions which he had already asked in the exam room, he had no recollection of this. This may be part of the reason that you must bring someone to drive you home from the procedure. Also, it would have been inconvenient to vomit (from the anesthesia) while driving had I not been there.
Well, a few years later, and now it’s my turn. I wouldn't have been as concerned if I hadn't had intimate knowledge of his experience. So now, the prep involves not swallowing the requisite swill, but ingesting 40 horse pills; 20 the night before, and 20 the next morning. At least they are scored and easy to break in half. The result, however, is still the same, and although not unexpected, it seemed as if it would go on forever. By the time I arrived for my procedure, it seems the tsunami hadn't quite played itself out, and I advised the staff of this. They told me not to worry. And I thought, well, bubeleh, that’s true. If I’m unconscious, it becomes your problem, not mine! I am happy to report that the actual procedure was very quick, easy and I lived to tell about it! I had no nausea, but was a little unsteady walking. But afterward I felt great! I only have one small problem: it seems that the thought of not eating for an entire day clouded my judgment when I went food shopping the day before. (I would definitely not do too to well in any creed which requires periodic fasting!) I bought enough Gatorade, clear juices and Jello to last me for at least three more colonoscopies! Jello wrestling anyone?
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