The Colonoscopy

20 02 2010

If you are preparing for your first colonoscopy, there is no way I can describe what you are about to experience in a way that allows you to really appreciate the event. Oh, I can try, but this is one of those things, like getting married or winning the lottery, that you must experience firsthand to really gain an appreciation.

A Colo-What?

My doctor told me I needed a colonoscopy. Immediately my mind began to process what he had just said. I had heard that word before, but it never occurred to me to ask what it meant. I only knew it was some type of medical procedure. Suddenly I found myself breaking the word down as if I was back in 9th grade Latin. Colon. I knew what that meant. That would be my gut; the human version of chitterlings. Oscopy. Sounded like it would have something to do with a scope of some sort. Colon-oscopy; a scope in my colon? I only knew of one way to get a scope into my colon and that wasn’t a pleasant thought. And what does this scope look like? How big is it? What difference does it make; I’m talking about a scope inside my colon! What could possibly be in there that the doctor would want to see that badly? And if he finds something that should not be there, how does he plan to get it out? Suddenly, I did not like the direction this doctor visit had taken.

But my doctor explained the procedure to me from A to Z and it really didn’t sound like that big a deal. He assured me, and rightfully so, it was completely painless.

First you’ll need to decide who your escort will be. You need to have someone go with you because you will not be allowed, nor will you be able, to drive yourself home afterward. Besides, it’s good to have a friend or loved one to sit and listen while you ramble under the effects of the medication. When trying to find someone to go along you really want someone who is a close relation-the closer the better-more about that later.

Oh, This Sounds Like Fun

Preparation for the procedure begins the night before by cleansing the colon. Everything that is in there will have to come out. We aren’t talking about a laxative such as Ex-Lax or Feenamint. Think more like Drano or Liquid Plumber. We’re talking about some industrial strength substance that won’t stop working until every trace of digestible material has seen the light of day.

For my first colonoscopy I was given an information sheet which instructed me to get something called Fleet, from my pharmacy. I was to mix this clear fluid with the clear beverage of my choosing. The nurse recommended 7-Up. I’m here to say it doesn’t make any difference what you mix this stuff with there is no way to make it palatable. This is the part that is so hard to describe. I can tell you step-by-step what happens during the procedure and give you a pretty good idea what to expect, but there are no words in the English language which can accurately depict how bad this bowel prep tastes. Why, just the thought of this stuff entering my mouth makes my jaw muscles tighten and my mouth water as if I’m about to hurl. If given a choice between eating a pound of axle grease and drinking Fleet, I’ll give serious consideration to the grease. I don’t know who dreamed up this concoction but waterboarding would be too kind a fate for him.

Well, the good news is a different prep is available. This other substance, which I used for subsequent colonoscopies, is much more tolerable and just as effective. But, regardless of which one you use, be near a bathroom-your bathroom-when you drink it. Don’t drink it while you’re on a plane. Don’t drink it while over at a friend’s house or on your way to work. When you swallow this prep you want to be in close proximity to your own private toilet.

Having taken the prep as prescribed, you’ll be sitting there with a good book or enjoying Jeopardy when suddenly you’ll hear (and feel) the first rumblings emanating from deep down in your gut. Your spouse, out in the yard, will probably come running inside thinking you just rolled down the stairs or dropped the television. Not much later the rumblings will increase in both frequency and intensity. It will reach a point at which it sounds less like a distant tornado and more like a full orchestra tuning up for a concert. Your dog, unaware of what is going on, will probably detect something devastating is about to happen and run for cover.

Don’t Squeeze the Charmin

That’s when it’ll hit. You’ll jump from your seat and make a mad dash for the bathroom. Take your book with you and don’t plan to get back in time for Final Jeopardy.

Sure, you’ve experienced the big D before. You’ve had the flu. You’ve had bad chili that came back to haunt you. But you’ve never experienced diarrhea like this. This diarrhea makes Montezuma’s revenge seem like a leaky faucet. The explosion of waste is more like the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens.

In the days preceding the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens, the ground shook and rumbled and the mountain bulged until it could no longer hold back the gases expanding within. In a sudden and violent eruption of gases underneath the mountain, lava, mud, steam, rocks, and trees were sent flying for miles.

That is a fair description of this first trip to the bathroom, but take heart… subsequent visits will be less violent. And, there will be subsequent visits. In fact, before the sun comes up you’re likely to, depending on how much you’ve had to eat, make several trips to the bathroom.

Then somewhere around 4 AM you’ll make your last visit to the john and can now take a shower and get dressed for your visit to the doctor.

Smile, It’s Showtime

It is at this point you can relax-the worst is over. Well, actually that depends on how you feel about public flatulence. At the clinic you’ll be escorted to a room, well, not exactly a room since a room has four walls. This space has three walls and a curtain. I always hated getting undressed behind a curtain, but that’s what you are there for. You’ll remove your clothes and put on one of those gowns like they give you in the hospital; you know the kind with the opening in the back that you can’t figure out how to put on?

Then you’ll get in the bed and a nurse will insert an intravenous tap into your arm which will be used later to administer the medication.

Ah… the medication. I don’t know what it is but it is good stuff. Once this medication begins to work you’ll be conscious but you won’t remember a thing-nor will you care. I have heard of some of the things patients have said during this procedure, while under the effects of this medication. A doctor or nurse who makes a living performing this procedure on a daily basis would likely be able to write a great book. My doctor has shared some of the things I said during the procedure and my wife has told me some of the things I said afterward, before the medication wore off.  I’m just afraid of what I may have said that the doctor is not telling me. But once they begin the flow of medication it’s lights out.

Symphonic Cacophony

After the procedure is complete you’ll be taken back to the little curtained cubby where you began, where you will stay until you recover from the medication. Here I need to come back to that escort mentioned earlier. This is the part the escort, or designated driver, will enjoy the most. It will be a reward for the time they sat waiting patiently for you to complete the procedure and recover from the medication. It is also why you want someone who is really close to you, and hopefully discreet, very discreet.

During the procedure a fair volume of air enters the colon. Well, that air, just like anything else that enters the colon, must get out, and it will take the same escape route that everything else takes.  Now keep in mind, you probably will not be the only patient there who has had this procedure. There may well be several of you. Also, remember the room will be closed off only by a curtain. In other words, it is not sound-proof. So, as your escort sits there, and probably unbeknown to you, it will sound like the quality control room at a whoopee cushion factory.

Shortly afterward you will be offered something to drink and then released to go home.

So, just to recap… you will have to endure a power  cleansing so you can then  lay on your side while a doctor feeds a flexible television camera up your…ah, into your colon, after which you will lay in a semi-public area while passing tons of gas to the tempo of the William Tell Overture. And, for all this fun, you will pay the doctor. Enjoy!




7 responses

3 03 2010

You know that you have given me little comfort because my test is in April.

31 03 2010
Bill Taylor

Teresa, the big day is coming soon. Good luck!

29 03 2010

just had it done,not quite that bad anymore

31 03 2010
Bill Taylor

Glad to know some things are getting better. Don’t want to take all the fun out of it though!

6 07 2010
John McCann

Ahem, Mr. Taylor, I don’t know whether to thank you for your blog about the colonoscopy or to file a lawsuit against you for scaring me to where I won’t get one and thus cause my health to suffer.

8 07 2010
Bill Taylor

Go for it, John, the after-nap is worth it all. Greatest sleep there is. BTW, I really enjoy your column!

8 07 2010
My Parachute Adventure: How I Survived a Fall From 13,000 Feet and Lived to Tell It!!! « Writings and Musings by Bill Taylor

[…] decide it’s something you’d like to try, yourself. After all, I didn’t steer you wrong on the colonoscopy, did I? (Watch the video […]

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