The Colonoscopy Blow by Blow

For those of you wondering how the whole colonoscopy thing went, here’s a recap.

Friday

A regular day except I stopped taking my daily aspirin to allow better blood clotting

Saturday

Ate a “light breakfast” which for me was two Eggos, two eggs over easy, and a banana chased down with four mugs of coffee with skim milk and a glass of water.

After 9 a.m. I could not eat any solid food. I drank two cans of ginger ale, a glass of skim mile with malt powder, a tall glass of lemonade, and beaucoup water.

I went for an easy 30-mile bike ride because I knew I wouldn’t be riding on Sunday and Monday.

At 4 p. m. I took three teeny Dulcolax pills. I figured they wouldn’t do much. I figured wrong. They had roughly the force of three teeny atom bombs. Beginning at around 6, I ran to the bathroom several times. After about 8 p.m. all was calm.

Sunday

Nothing but clear fluid all day. So it was tea with sugar, And lots of water. At 2 p. m. I took three more Dulcolax pills. Within an hour I was doing laps to the bathroom. By this point there was nothing solid left in my digestive track. By 4, all was calm.

Good thing because at 4 I had to drink a quart of Mucolax, a powdered laxative mixed in water. It worked like a charm. At 6 the laxative kicked in and I was back on the track, running to the bathroom. By this time I was feeling worn out. I am pretty sure my electrolytes were all askew. I had a whopper of a headache. (I could have taken Tylenol but decided to ride the headache out.)

After a couple of hours my gut calmed down. Then at 9, I drank my second quart of Mucolax. Lord knows why. I guess some people have stubborn plumbing. The next two hours were pretty rough. More running to the bathroom for about 2 1/2 hours. Nothing but wet.

At midnight I lay down for six or so hours of sleep on the couch. Except I couldn’t sleep. My gut gurgled all night. I couldn’t warm up. From midnight on, I couldn’t eat or drink anything to prepare for the anesthesia.

Monday

At 6:10 I rollled off the couch groggy, and dressed. Mrs. Rootchopper drove me over to the endoscopy center in Maryland, about ten miles away.

I checked in, signed a mountain of forms, then went into a prep room. My vital signs were taken. Then I was weighed. 188! Unreal. My clothes weigh about the same as what the laxatives took out of me. I had thought my 190 pound weigh in at my GP’s office in November was a fluke or the result of a bad scale. Apparently not.

A nurse gave me a gown and told to take off my shoes and undress below my waste. My clothes and such were put into a plastic bin that would follow me as I was moved about. The gown went on with the back open for obvious reasons. I was also given a disposable sheet across my lap for modesty’s sake.

Next I was taken through a side door to the procedure room, a rudimentary operating room with a cushioned comfy table just for me. I was positioned on the table on my left side, head on a pillow, with knees bent up, butt out at present arms, so to speak. The anesthesiologist came in and explained what he was doing. I was hooked up to some equipment that would monitor my vital signs. The gastroenterologist came in and chatted briefly. Then the anesthesiologist put an IV into my arm and injected a sedative. It was ice cold. I felt it go up my arm.

Next thing I knew I was in the recovery room. Nurses were buzzing about. I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was a nurse making sure I didn’t getting up. Mrs. Rootchopper, who had been waiting outside in the parking lot, was called.

After a brief period (I have no idea how long) I was allowed to stand up. The nurse told me to put my underpants and my pants on while seated. Then I was to put my shoes on and tie them. Finally I was to stand and pull my underpants and pants up. All of this was to avoid bending way over to tie my shoes which would have been both comical and semi-catastrophic given the disoriented state that I was in and that I was utterly unaware of. Sure enough, as soon as I stood up, I wobbled. Yeah, the anesthesia is still in my system.

I was moved to a chair and Mrs. Rootchopper and I met with the doctor. (Having someone present when you get debriefed is a good idea because you’re half loony tunes from the anesthesia.) Everything went well. The prep worked just as intended. He found a bit of hemorrhaging along the colon but no polyps…until the endoscope got to the very end of the large intestine where it connects to the small intestine. There he found a polyp. He took a biopsy which he will send to a lab for review. He seemed confident that it was noncancerous but the lab would determine its specifics. He showed us a couple of pictures he took of the area including an irregular patch where he had burned the polyp. No more polyp.

After another few minutes of waiting to clear my head I wobbled out to the car and went home. I felt anemic and my tummy felt kind of spongy and tight at the same time. I ate a bowl of rice chex and a banana then I took a two hour nap.

I was groggy for a few more hours once I woke up. Then I ate dinner: mini-hamburgers in beef gravy with mashed potatoes. It tasted amazing. It was only after dinner that I realized how messed up my system had been. For the rest of the night, my only discomfort was some gas caused by the use of air during the procedure. (The colon is about six feet long and has irregular walls and there are several bends in it. The air facilitates smooth passage of the endoscope.)

Tuesday

Today was a normal day. Breakfast with coffee and milk. At noon I went for a 30-mile bike ride and rode up a long hill like it wasn’t there. Light as a feather with fresh legs. Not the least bit groggy or fatigued.

Thursday

I can start taking my daily aspirin again.

Post Procedure Observations

I have to say that the prep took more out of me this time than in the past. It turns out that the choice of laxatives was determined by what my insurance would cover. In the past I had used Moviprep, a prescription solution. I think I had to drink a gallon of the stuff. And it tasted like Pedialyte, which is to say, nasty. This time I used a combination of over the counter laxatives: Dulcolax and Mulcolax. Drinking Mulcolax was an improvement. I only had to drink a half gallon and it had no taste at all. The apparent advantage of Moviprep is that it shortens the overall length of the prep.

The only pain I felt was the stab from the IV port. I felt nothing during the procedure itself. The staff and the nurses were great. As were the doctors. I learned that this was my fifth colonoscopy, all with the same doctor. He was a very handsome young man when I first met him 30 years ago. He’s a bit stooped over now with thin gray hair but he has a world-class bedside manner and communicates well. Most important, he has a ton of experience doing colonoscopies and he burns a mean polyp.

I’ll find out about the lab results soon. Unfortunately I’ll probably have to have another colonoscopy in three years, maybe two if the polyp is found to be troublesome. There are worse things in life.

As unpleasant as all this may have sounded, I urge you to follow CDC guidance and get a colonoscopy if you are 50 or older, 40 if you have a family history.

If you are a workaholic or a slave to your daily routine, I advise you to forget about going to the office or trying to do anything remotely normal during the prep. Lordy, don’t schedule a Zoom meeting! (You don’t want to be known as Jeffrey Poobin, do you?) You can’t predict when the laxative will kick in. You want to be as close to your porcelain overlord as possible when it does. In other words, surrender to the voiding.

Since I have decided not to have back surgery, barring a calamity, I am done with doctors for 2022. With any kind of luck, next year will be a boring one for me medically. No epidural injections. No endoscopes. Just a follow up skin exam in January, and routine biannual trips to the dentist and eye doctor. Life is good.

9 thoughts on “The Colonoscopy Blow by Blow

  1. Glad to hear it all came out well. I recall the short-term memory loss from the anesthesia my last time. I “woke up” talking to my wife while sitting on a gurney. I was fully dressed and had even put my wedding ring back on (which was in my pants pocket for the procedure). I asked how long we’d been talking and she said about 10 minutes. I asked if I’d been making sense and she looked at me funny and said yes. I had no recall of those 10 minutes. I had no recall of dressing, but the nurse said I did it myself. (What a big boy!) When I got home, I had to return a rain jacket. I emptied the pockets, packed it up, and carried the package to the post office. Halfway there, I remembered I should check the pockets. I walked home and slit open the tape on the box. At that moment I remembered I’d already checked them. I did it again anyway (since the box was open), packed it up, and put a Post-It note on the outside of the box that said “you already checked the pockets” and walked back to the post office.

  2. Sounds about right, except a little clarification: you had what is called Monitored Anesthesia Care or MAC. You got sedated not anesthesized (anesthesia requires a breathing tube as the anesthesia is in gas form) If you got a report, it should list what sedation you received (usually Fentanyl and Versed. Versed is what causes you to not remember stuff). I took care of a guy one time who kept yelling at his wife “Why won’t the doctor come and talk to me”. Her reassurances the doctor had spoken to him twice didn’t accomplish a thing. Also regarding the weight loss from the bowel prep: remember in high school wrestlers would take laxatives to make weight for a wrestling match? And then get all dressed up in plastic sweatsuits and stand in the hot shower to lose weight that way. Talk about messing with your electrolytes. It’s a miracle none of them died as a result. That’s why they tell you to use Gatorade for the Miralax solution. But all in all it is the gold standard for colon cancer detection. Don’t tell Ron DeSantis your concerns. He’ll form a panel to investigate why people forget what happens during a colonoscopy. Colonoscopies being a left wing way to fill your mind with liberal thinking while you are sedated, don’t you know!

    1. I do wish I had drunken a Gatorade. Lemon flavor is allowed even the day before the procedure. I probably didn’t have Versed (had it before tho). I was lucid enough afterwards to follow instructions and such.

      1. Do you remember seeing a syringe or bottle with white liquid in it? That is Diprivan or Propofol ( Michael Jackson died after using it). I don’t think you got that because you wake up very quickly and wears off fast. I got Fentanyl 100 mcgs and Versed 5 and it was night night time and took hours to wear off. The last colonoscopy I got Versed 8 and I don’t remember being as out of it as this time. But as you get older you need less and less.

  3. Well well, what a ride. I’m glad things looked good, and sending good vibes for the lone polyp. I do not look forward to these times in my future. I am no stranger to a laxative, but the violent continual sounds of this kind of prep scare me. I do love a good clean out though.

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