I’ll whisper it! Colonoscopy! Oh, my, what a torturous procedure!
by Charlie Leck
You young readers can turn away from this – if you dare! The courageous among you will continue to read to find out what you are in for; because the day will come when your very own doctor utters the word to you: Colonoscopy!
“No problem,” you’ll react to him because you really don’t know what you are in for – or what’s in store for you! That was my reaction the first time, too.
“Sure, doc, if I need to,” I said bravely to my young and sincere and pretensionless primary physician. “Let’s get it arranged.”
Now, having gone through the entire modus operandi three times, I call the whole mess what it really is: “My 24 hours in hell!”
The colonoscope that traverses into, around and through 4 to 6 feet of your innards, looking for problems, isn’t so bad. As a matter of fact, drugged up, one doesn’t really mind those moments in the surgery room; and, if you’re the curious sort, watching the whole business on high definition television, it will be really quite fascinating.
The hellish part of this whole procedure is in the preparation the night or morning before you get together with the colon specialist (there must be a fancy name for such a division of medicine, but I don’t know what it is).
I’m sure, by now, you older readers have abandoned me, so that I may have absolutely no one left – the young because they are bored out of their senses and the elderly because they don’t want to relive the moments of agony.
In the surgery center, I mentioned to the doctor that someone could get very rich if they could devise a preparation procedure that would avoid what he had put me through the night before.
“It’s been done this way for a good long time,” he said. “No one has figured out a way to make it any easier.”
He is a kind, gentle, humble and undemeaning man. He’s also straightforward and has a line-up of poor folks, who’ve gone through the same thing as I, who are waiting for his services. So, he wants to can the chit-chat and get on with things.
In the preparation area I was ensconced by only some simple, hanging drapes and there were other souls hidden behind the drapes of yet other little compartments. They had gone through the preparations the night before also, drinking all the blends, brews, tinctures and concoctions and taking the directed compounds, so I considered them soul-mates of sort. I could hear their whispering complaints to their nurses about how crude, debasing and obnoxious it had all been. I would have laughed hysterically, but it wasn’t a laughing matter.
One starts, if one is doing the actual colonoscopy procedure the next morning, by taking a tiny little pill – 10MG of metoclopram – at 5 o’clock in the late afternoon. Metoclopram is the generic name for Reglan, a medication used to treat gastrointestinal issues like stomach pain and heartburn. This should be clue enough for what’s yet to come. So be forwarned. Only after the procedure did I read that, in 2009, folks began to report some strange, arduous and strange reactions to the pharmaceutical – things like involuntary jerks and movements. Believe me, I had plenty of those throughout the night that I’m yet to describe.
At 6 o’clock one begins to take the concoction that one has gotten all mixed up an hour or so earlier and put in the refrigerator to chill – a little cocktail of water and polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution. Doesn’t it sound yummy? Of course, my doctor has forewarned me that it is not – that I might want to suck the heart of a lemon out before downing each of the 16 glasses, 10 minutes apart from each other, that I am to take that evening to commence the night from hell. I mean, read the name of the solution out-loud to yourself! Doesn’t it sound like a mixture of all the food items you might dislike most in life – such as kidneys, liver and tripe mixed with Spam and pigsfeet gelatin. It is upon drinking the first glass of this volatile brew that the eruptions and detonations arrive. One is sent scampering hastily to wherever the nearest toilet might be and it is quickly perceived that one must not wander far from that given place for the rest of the entire evening and on into the morning hours. And, no matter how quickly one is afoot – even if one is as deft and aplomb as Kobe Bryant – one is not going to win every race to bathroom. The losses are devastating to one’s ego and sense of worthiness.
The process goes on for hours. It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes just to finish consuming the pigsfeet drink, sucking so hopefully on the big, fresh lemon before each glass full. Upon consuming the final glass of the horrid liquid, the night from hell is really just beginning. One thinks one, since it is now cold and dark outside, can finally slip off to bed for a night’s sleep. Well, one might try if there is a short and clear path to the toilet from one’s bed. And, forget about the aches and pains that normally cause one to stir and rise from one’s mattress so slowly and cautiously. On this night, one will fire out of bed like a Titan rocket rising from Cape Canaveral – jolting, jumping and running straight to the bathroom while praying that the distance will be covered in time to – well, you know, in time! God help the sleeping dog if he happens to be in the way. The yelping , whining and whimpering lingers yet in the memory of my ears.
My appointment was for 0730 in the morning. That meant that I needed to rise at 0330 in order to take down one last beverage at the prescribed 4 hours before “the procedure.” Magnesium Citrate may sound more attractive and acceptable than the afore mentioned brew, but it really isn’t. Though they’ve tried to hide the dastardly part of the drink with some strong citrate flavoring, one soon realizes that the flat, thick mélange is as repulsive as the polyethylene glycol electrolytes that are still causing volcanic like sounds and shakes deep within one’s gut.
One has now poured two powerful laxatives down one’s system. Medicinenet.com warns that one oughtn’t to take such a powerful purgative as Magnesium Citrate if at all possible. “It usually results in a bowel movement with 30 minutes to 3 hours.” They mean, of course, if you haven’t already poured another strong laxative down your throat and into your gut.
It was 3:30 in the morning and I was sitting for the rest of the night – right up until my 6 o’clock shower – in this one, lonely, cool and drafty place. It was 8 degrees below zero in the great Minnesota outdoors and I could feel the chill upon my cheeks (if you get my drift).
“Well, I took out five polyps,” the doctor said so matter-of-factly to me, “but they all look okay. We’ll have the lab take a look at them just in case and let you know.”
He stuck out an innocent hand to me, to shake. I considered. He’d just been poking around in the that part of my anatomy that is suppose to inviolable and now he wants to shake my hand as if he hasn’t done a thing to me.
Oh, shit! I took his hand and shook it warmly and thanked him so sincerely, as any properly raised and civilized human being would.
“I’ll see you again in three years,” he said.
“No,” I replied, “no, no!”
“Well, okay,” he conceded, “in four years if all the polyps turn out to be clear. Four years, then. I’ll see you!”
Four years! It seems like such a long time, but I know, in fact, it is not. Perhaps I’ll be gone to hell by then, well prepared for its tortuous fires.”
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