Friday, September 11, 2009

The Inside Poop: What They Won't Tell You About Colonoscopies

Okay, I know you're supposed to get a colonoscopy when you hit the big 5-0. I said, "I'll do it real soon." Three years later, I actually asked my doctor (with whom I'd finally made an appointment for my decadinal [as opposed to annual] physical) to schedule me for one.

Everyone I knew always shuddered at the mere mention of "colonoscopy." They must be awful!

Two weeks before my appointment I called Dook Hospital, where the procedure would be done (otherwise, say, if it had been done in my doctor's clinic, my insurance would have paid for it. This way they didn't have to do that), and asked, wasn't there some kind of meds I had to be getting?

I was supposed to have gotten an informational packet along with a prescription at least a month previously. Dook assured me that they'd fax the whole shebang to Wally World, and they did. I picked it up along with a box labeled "MoviPrep," and took it home.

According to the directions, I couldn't take a taxi to Dook. I called them. Turns out they don't want a possibly irresponsible person taking charge of a woozy patient. So I asked if Dook, one of the largest and most respected hospitals in the entire freaking WORLD, had some kind of service that would provide transportation, or perhaps put patients up overnight until they were deemed awake enough to drive themselves home.


Well then, did Dook know of any organizations in the area that provided such services?


I had to reschedule, but assured them that if the rules still stood as such I'd just have to reschedule and reschedule and reschedule because I didn't have anyone who could take off an entire afternoon from work just to accompany me to a doctor's appointment. By September school would be in session. Maybe I could hire some irresponsible college student to do the job.

Luckily, I happened to see a sign for "Home Helpers" one day in downtown Hillsborough. I gave them a call. Sure, they did this kind of thing all the time. Their people were drug-tested and investigated so as to keep out the loons. I went over and signed a bunch of legal papers, discovered that they also CLEAN HOUSES!!! (oh! I am SO going to clean my house enough so I can get some pros in to clean it properly) and do all kinds of things for folks.

So now all I had to worry about was the appointment. Some kind people at work emailed me Dave Barry's column on his first colonoscopy (url at the end of this), which didn't quite make some of the worst prospects look so good, but made others look a lot better. One of my coworkers told me she'd been awake during the procedure. Uh oh.

I checked the instructions on the MoviPrep and followed them. The day before the procedure I was on a clear liquid diet, no red or purple items. To assure that I would be as little hungry as possible, I stocked up with about $50 of drinks: Gatorade (the low-cal version), strained fruit juices, ginger ale, broths. I think I may have drunk about $10 of it. I only got a minor hunger pang once, just before lunchtime on the first day. I had chicken broth for that lunch. You'd be surprised how GOOD chicken broth tastes! I mean: yummy!

(A part of me wondered if I was drinking too much. There've been so many news stories about people who have died after drinking X amount of water...)

For dinner I gorged on lemon-lime and orange Jello. Fabulous!

At 6 PM it was time to begin drinking the first round of MoviPrep, which I'd prepared that morning. People had told me how AWFUL that stuff was. I took a sip at 6:05. Man, they must be wimps! Tasted like I recalled Mountain Dew tasting. Granted, I've only had MD about twice in my life, but this had a lemon-lime twang to it (one of the main ingredients was ascorbic acid). Okay, so far so good.

You're supposed to drink the stuff so you've got it all down in an hour. It took me an hour and a half because by the third glass it wasn't tasting so great. Maybe like moldy Mountain Dew. Perhaps I'd just been drinking too much that day and my body was rejecting the idea of liquids.

But after you get it all down you've got to drink 16 oz. more of clear liquids. I opted for water--the best water EVER!!! So yummy after the Prep. Glug, glug, no prob.

So the MoviPrep was injested by 7:30. The instructions said that things might begin to happen after the second glassful. I waited. "Anybody there?" I asked the lower part of my body.

At about 7:55 it answered and I settled in to reading a novel in my Reading Room. It wasn't that bad. (A coworker had told me to get aloe-infused TP, which was a good idea once everything was over.) By 9:45... Oh, 10:15 at the most, it was all over and, unlike what a few of my co-workers had told me, I got a good night's sleep, no probs. The second round of MoviPrep would start first thing in the morning.

My main worry was the drive in to Dook. I would be in a stranger's car. Would I have to sit on a garbage bag? I mean, you know, in case... something happened? Now I thought perhaps that might not be too much of a problem.

I set my alarm for 5:00. Yes! I can get up then! If I did, it would all be SO over by the time I got in the car to leave!

But three rounds of snooze later, I finally dragged myself up to a sitting position. Fed the cats, almost got breakfast. Oh, right. No solids. Decided to tackle the MoviPrep right away. Started at 6:00, estimated a leisurely finish at 7:15.

Finished at 8:00. It wasn't that the MoviPrep was foul or anything, it was just that you took a sip and your body refused to swallow. This is the part of the procedure that takes GUTS, my friends! Chugging that MoviPrep! It was sheer fear of the ride to Dook that got me to finish it off.

It was also glass #2 of this round that things got moving. But by 9:45, pretty much, the process was over. My ride was due at 10:30. He showed up at 10:10 and by golly, I was ready.

Got to Dook, zipped through check-in, went back into the put-on-this-gown area and answered medical questions. "My doctor is part of the Dook system," I told the medic. "Shouldn't this information already be in my records?" She assured me that the systems weren't quite coordinated yet, but now that she was inputting everything we wouldn't have to worry about it any more.

Fifteen minutes later another person asked me the same questions and inputted them on a keyboard five feet away from the previous one. Guess communications weren't that good within the boundaries of Dook. And ten minutes after that, thirty feet down the hall, yet another medic keyed in the same answers on yet another computer. Then another appeared on the other side of my gurney with a clipboard, and I answered the same questions yet again. Ah, modern technology!

One of the medics told me that I'd have amnesia for the entire day. "But I'm reading a novel!" I exclaimed. "I'm twenty pages from the end!"

"You'll have to read it again."

Thank goodness I'd made four short notes about what I wanted to include in my first column for CBR. But had I stated them clearly? I'd been thinking long and hard about that column. Darn! It'd all be gone.

They started the IV. I was a little POd that I not only heard the doctor say, "Okay, we're beginning now," but I distinctly felt three oofy bits that made me say, "Ow." They'd explained how a little stretching might occur as they went around the bends of my innards (to use the scientific term). I wondered if I'd be able to make it. I mean, it wasn't a real ow-y kind of ow, it was just the kind of ow you make to get your dentist's attention to stay away from that particular corner of your tooth, that there's still a nerve ending in the general neighborhood that's semi-awake.

But that was the last I remembered of the procedure. I woke up and Jay, the kind gentleman from the Home Helpers place, was just sitting down to get briefed by the doctor as to my state. I remembered him. I remembered that Joanne was in deep doo-doo in the novel I was reading. I remembered everything I'd planned for my column.

"Are you releasing gas?" a medic asked me. Apparently they pump you full of air during the process. I assured her that as a lady I don't release gas ever, thank you very much. I got dressed and was dizzy enough that they zipped me through Dook in a wheelchair as Jay brought his car around.

I burped a few times. Very subtly, quite ladylike.

Got home fine. We stopped at Wendy's first and I got a semi-healthy dinner as take-out. Ate. Took a long nap. Left a message at work that, surprise, you can't drive for 24 hours after the procedure (some places say 36), but that I'd shave a couple of hours off that and come in around lunch the next day. That night I listened to all the gas in my innards regale me with an organ recital as things shifted around in there.

I'd lost 9 pounds during the entire process. Yay!

And that was that. What a huge worry over a big bunch of nothing! I'm glad to say the checkup showed I was fine.

I think the best thing about it was that I found out that one of my co-workers is going in in 2 weeks to have HIS first colonoscopy. I sat there and razzed him about it along with everyone else who'd been through one. I was part of the Colonoscopy Gang now, one of those In The Know.

Don't know how much it's going to cost me yet. I just closed my eyes and said it had to be done. Good thing I have an HSA with some $$ left in it. Mr. Obama: some better health insurance options, please!

So now you know. And if you need another opinion about it, just read Dave Barry:

And don't put off your colonoscopy because you're afraid of it. Nothin' to it. Just have a good book standing by in your personal Reading Room.

LATE NOTE: According to my insurance rep, if the procedure is preventative it'll cost me nothing, just like a mammogram. However, if they'd have found something during the procedure, I'd have had to have paid full price for it. Isn't our insurance system wonderful! :^(


Anonymous said...

Hi Carol, Thank you for your blog post about Colonoscopy. As a 30 yr old having my first colonoscopy I was really worried and your blog actually soothed some nerves (and my musings about when I would start pooing after drinking the disgusting Moviprep!)

I have also written a blog about my colonoscopy- it's funny how when I start talking about it people start telling me about their own stories- turns out a lot of people at my age have done it but told no one. I don't know why people don't talk about it openly, it would have been less scary for people who have to undergo the procedure in the future and provide some tips and hints!

anyway, please check out my blog if you have time :)

Lmt said...

Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this wonderful Post on Colonoscopy

Mema said...

Drank Moviprep, first dose @2pm second @6pm my appointment was for 6:45 am. Needless to say l was still running brown at 9pm the next day and have to reschedule. Ugh..l have to go thru this again? Lordy help...