Being over 60 means getting a colonoscopy. Truth to tell, I had one about 10 years ago, not long after turning 50. It’s a rite of passage at the end of the middle years. We’re entering new territory, and by now we understand the value of health. The colonoscopy is a symbol of our new watchfulness in a dangerous world.
My second colonoscopy was today, at age 61. Any day that starts with a colonoscopy can only get better. Assuming, of course, that they don’t discover some dread disease that begins with “C.”
Everyone says the day of preparation before the procedure is the hard part. This time, the prep day didn’t seem so bad. Two bottles of salty stuff to drink, four little pills to swallow. Just follow the instructions. They let me drink water up until five hours before the procedure.
I drive to a nice modern facility at 8:30 a.m. Lots of friendly and professional staff. They give me a hospital gown, and a robe to put over my shoulders like a cape. The volunteer says I can keep my socks on, because it’s cold in there. He leads me to a reclining chair, and puts a blanket over my lap and legs. A pre-warmed blanket! First class all the way.
There’s the usual blood pressure and temperature routine, an IV is started, people keep asking my name and date of birth, to make sure I haven’t forgotten. At least four different people ask if I’m allergic to anything. They all seem genuinely happy to be doing their jobs. I sign a few papers, talk to the anesthesiologist. The nurse says there’ll be a short wait. I relax and read my book.
After a while the doc comes and chats, and says we’ll get started in a few minutes. I walk into the next room and lie down on my side, as directed. The chief nurse announces the procedure. At least six health-care folks are in the room, and we don’t want anyone thinking this is an amputation.
The doctor asks, “Do you mind if the student nurse observes?” Of course he can observe! He might learn something. Sell tickets, for all I care. I’m going to be knocked out. Put it on YouTube, if you want. Just make sure to get my good side.
The anesthesiologist is fiddling with his stuff, and a nurse comments on the mystery I was reading. She has the same book. It’s about a dog and a private eye, as told by the dog. We’re all laughing about the dog, or so it seemed to me, and that’s the last thing I remember.
I woke up in a fog, still lying on my side. As a nurse had warned, I felt cramps from pockets of air in my gut. They put air into the colon as part of the procedure, and try to get most of it out when they’re done. But they never get it all, so you have these pockets of air inside. You have to relax and allow the air to escape by the usual exit.
I do not remember this air cramping after the colonoscopy 10 years ago, but I honestly have to say it was the only bad part today. When I became fully awake, the air cramps felt painful. Not terrible, but definitely not pleasant. A guy next to me was having the same problem. Minutes went by, and the air pockets were slow to disperse. I finally got the last of the air out in the privacy of a restroom. It seemed like enough air to inflate a truck tire.
Eventually I got dressed and a nurse took me to a chair, sat me down, and gave me a cup of water. They had said the procedure would begin at 9:30 a.m., and I could go home by 10:30 or 11 a.m. It seemed like a lot of time had passed, but now that I had my watch and glasses back, I could see it was only 10:50.
The doc stopped by and told me everything was fine. He had pictures! He found one polyp and zapped it. No possibility that it was the bad kind, he assured me. Score: Doctors 1, Polyps, 0. Game over.
You may remember that I drove myself to the medical building. But you probably know that they don’t let you drive yourself home. Fortunately, my neighbor was kind enough to come and drive me home. I had something to eat and took a nap. I’ll go back and retrieve my car tomorrow.
One thing more: I decided to have the colonoscopy now, because in two months, I probably won’t have health insurance. — John Hayden