Friday, June 24, 2011

It's All Behind You

It's been a long time since I was cheered on while sitting on a commode, over 50 years to be exact. I think I was two.

And yet, today I found myself cheering silently for me (while my husband murmured his own encouragement from the living room "you'll get through this, honey").

And that's what preparation for a colonoscopy does for you. It reminds you of those toddler days when a diaper was quite often the best option: with every form of laxative known to man lined up on your bathroom counter, and a corresponding time chart taped to your bathroom mirror, life as you knew it (as a grown adult) is about to end.

It's not just the lack of food that makes a grown woman (me) want to cry, but the recognition that there is no where in the world she would rather be than within 10 feet of a bathroom, newly recognized as Laxative Heaven.

And that is how my past 36 hours were spent - NO diapers, but always within 10 feet of our tiny bathroom. However, in our 640 square foot, 1-bedroom condo that means I could be in any of our three rooms and STILL make it to Laxative Heaven in just a matter of steps, so I probably should not complain. Doing this in a 5,000 square foot home would add another level of difficulty.

In all seriousness, the past 36 hours were much less uncomfortable than I had imagined they would be during the past six years. Yes, I have been dreaming of this day that long. Why, you must wonder. Well, it's simple. Six years ago I turned 50, the recommended age for your first colonoscopy screening. I've put it off that long.

And yes, dreaming is probably a bit of a stretch. It was more like a nightmarish fear of the unknown. If you've read Dave Barry's Colonoscopy Journal, you can understand how unknown and imagined expectations (17,000 feet of tube) can feed an unnecessary fear which will grow and fester inside us until the only cure is a regimen of laxatives and a colonoscopy.

Reading Barry's column was the best medicine I could have taken, I laughed and laughed late Thursday evening as I read his hysterical "journal" of his colonepic experience (yes, that's a new word - colonepic).

But, leaving the humor behind, here are the details. I have survived a colonoscopy and I am here to tell you about it. Read along.

Per the good doctor's orders, I stopped eating solid foods on a Wednesday at 7 PM (dinner). This was easy since I was tired and ready for bed at 10, and I was not hungry after dinner. I sipped some water in the middle of the night and slept well.

The following day, I started seriously drinking clear liquids at 7 AM (Thursday). I am a Starbuck's junkie so I hit my favorite haunt and ordered several iced drinks to go. I enjoyed green tea, and passion tea, and water all day long as I was running errands and keeping appointments. I was never hungry. And certainly never thirsty.

In the evening on Thursday I had a few Popsicle's, one bowl of clear chicken broth, several cups of green and red jello, and more passion tea and water. I still wasn't really hungry, however, I discovered that habitually I would get off the couch and check out the frig every hour or so, looking for anything I might want. It was rather enlightening to see my own habits in action, and not be able to act on them.

Earlier that day, at 2 PM on Thursday, I had taken the prescribed laxative pills. At 5 PM on Thursday I drank a full bottle of laxative, followed by a large glass of water. And again at 5 AM on Friday, I drank a full bottle of laxative, followed by a large glass of water. All per doctor's orders.

Word of CAUTION: the liquid laxative is dangerous, I was very happy the doctor's directions included a suggestion to be VERY close to a bathroom after (while) drinking the bottled laxative. And without any gruesome details, let's just say I lost more than a few pounds that night.

And I'm not going to lie and say it was a great night's sleep. It wasn't. I slept, but I also woke up to visit Laxative Heaven several times. But it wasn't miserable or painful, it just wasn't all that restful.

It is very important to remember that you should not have ANYTHING (liquid or solid) within 4 hours of any type of surgery requiring anesthesia (with the exception of doctor ordered laxatives and liquids - in my case, the 2nd laxative bottle and a large glass of water).

Early Friday morning, we drove to the hospital, where the nurses were professional, quick and thorough with the paperwork. And eager to share the locations of all nearby bathrooms.

I was then presented with a lovely hospital bracelet and designer backless gown - I felt like a princess.
Well, not really, but so far this had not been a terribly unpleasant experience. Of course, it wasn't what I would term a pleasant experience either. But I was resigned to the fact that it needed to be done. I was not nervous or anxious. I just wanted it over. And I was dressed for the occasion.

There wasn't any "real" prep (like when you have major surgery), just vitals, an IV drop (for the anesthesia) and a warm blanket over the legs (absolutely say "yes" when they ask if you want one).

The anesthesiologist wanders in, makes sure you are who you should be and are there for the same procedure she thinks you're there for, then explains that it's an IV anesthesia, no needles in the arms, no tube down the throat, simple, easy. A nap of sorts.

And then the doctor arrives, looking all dapper in his crisp cotton shirt and silk tie, to say hello, make sure you are who you say you are and are there for the same reason he thinks you're there ("I have 3 questions for you: What's your name? Who's your doctor? Why are you here? Perfect. Thank you. Good night.")

And you're out.

And then you're awake. About 30 - 45 minutes later.

And surprisingly, feeling just fine. No memory of what just happened (which is nice, because you can pretend that your dignity is in tact and nothing at all happened while you were napping).  And there are no lingering signs of the long feared procedure either. A smiling nurse offers you juice and pretzels, and compliments your hair (which I always find hysterical in a hospital bed).

Following your awakening, you "stabilize" for maybe 15 minutes, the nurse checks your vitals, the smiling doc comes in to tell you all is well,  and you're done. Discharged. It's over.

In and out (please pardon the pun) in less that 2 hours. Check-in to check-out.

And it's off to brunch, cuz you are hungry. Nothing spicy, please.

In hindsight, I suppose if I had it to do all over again I should have done it at age 50...

But then again, you know what they say about hindsight - it's all behind you.

No comments:

Post a Comment