WHAT IS A COLONOSCOPY REALLY LIKE? – The Procedure and Recovery

The big day was here! It was time for my 4th colonoscopy!  Yay!

Well, doesn’t everyone have that reaction? If you do, you probably need more than just a medical consult.  Just sayin’.

Because I couldn’t stand the thought of anything with sugar (too much the day before), and because I was still limited to a liquid diet, I started the day off with a bowl of chicken broth. Even though it was the sodium reduced store brand, it was quite tasty and satisfied my need for at least some salt.

I showered, and hubby drove me to the hospital where the colonoscopy was to be performed.

Stopping at the information desk, I was happy to find my name was on the list of scheduled procedures. I expected things to go smoothly.

The lady in Admissions changed my thought process. I swear she was reading War & Peace on that computer monitor and that the occasional clicks on the keyboard were merely done when she needed to change pages.  Registration took forever, especially since the hospital had somehow managed to lose all my current information.  They listed my address and phone numbers as the ones I had years ago, even though I had been a patient in that hospital since that time.  But eventually it was all fixed.

The Admissions lady was at least 10 years older than me (yes, you can be that old, and still be alive and kicking). God bless her elderly soul, when I asked for directions to the GI suite, she got up and escorted me – albeit, slowly.

The GI waiting room was filled.   Can someone please explain to me why anyone would need to bring all three of their young children along when Daddy is having a colonoscopy?  At least one of those kids was school age, and it was a school day.  Granted, they were relatively well behaved, but they were getting tired and cranky.  Mom was doing her best.

Fortunately, my wait for entry into the pre-op area was less than 15 minutes.

Per the prep instruction, in addition to the Miralax mixture, I had drunk as many fluids as I possibly could – but I was still somewhat dehydrated, what with everything else that went on the evening before. The first nurse could not find an appropriate vein for the IV.  The second nurse found a vein and got blood return, but then the flow failed.  She thereupon called for the IV expert.  In my experience, every medical facility has at least one person who’s better at IVs than everyone else.  Mr. J, as I will call him, strolled over confidently, saying, “No problem.  I’ll get her!”  Ten minutes later, he was still trying to “get” me and chuckling about what a tough cookie I turned out to be.  Finally, he did manage to insert that darn IV into the front of my forearm (ouch!), and we were ready!

My procedure had been scheduled for 1:00 pm, and there were other procedures before me for the same doctor. Without placing any blame (after all, things can happen during a doctor’s morning office hours), the doctor didn’t arrive until 12:45.  I have to say the gurney I was on was the most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever had.  As if my butt wasn’t already sore enough.

Finally, I was taken into the surgical suite at 2:00 pm. My immediate reaction was to tell the nurse that perhaps they should consider knocking patients out before they get to that room – it was a tiny room with lots of nasty looking equipment and monitors.  I could have done without that view.

The doctor came in, at which point I took the opportunity to reiterate the call I had made to his office two days prior (and which he knew absolutely nothing about). I had been experiencing serious bleeding for more than a week and had called his office to make sure it was ok to go ahead with the procedure.  Having been told not to worry and that they often do colonoscopies on people who are actively bleeding, I went ahead with the prep and the test itself.  After hearing my story, the doctor turned to the nurse and told her to get a pediatric scope for my procedure.

Infants are tiny and young children are small, so I assumed the pediatric equipment being used for my procedure would be a tiny (or “toy” in my mind) version of the adult scope. That made me happy (be still, my aching butt).  So, imagine my surprise when the nurse came back with what looked an awful lot like an assault rifle.

They’re going to stick that in my ass? WTF?

Onward and upward, so to speak.

The nurse administered Versed and Fentanyl, and I began to feel a wee bit woozy. For about 5 minutes.  I was wide awake during the entire procedure.  Which was actually good, because I got to watch the monitor as the scope wound its way through my innards.  I got to watch polyps being removed and biopsies taken.  There was no pain, just an occasional twinge when something was snipped.  Several times the nurse asked if I was doing ok.  I was – really, I was finding the whole thing fascinating (of course, that may have been the Versed or  Fentanyl).  Although, I’m not sure the doctor really appreciated my occasional questions about what I was seeing.

The whole procedure took less than 30 minutes, and I was wheeled back to the recovery room. Everyone was a bit surprised that I was awake, talking, and pretty much ready to go home.  Most people are totally zonked for awhile after a colonoscopy.  I guess I’m just special.  Or maybe I’m just used to colonoscopies – for my first two, I was pretty well zonked out, for the third I was awake for most of the procedure but then zonked out in recovery.

It’s normal to remember absolutely nothing after a colonoscopy. The doctor comes in afterwards to talk to the patient, and most patients have no memory of what was said.   Many patients would not be able to find their way to the restroom by themselves, much less make their way home.  Which is why it’s required that arrangements be made for a friend or family member to take the patient home.  I really think I could have driven myself – God, those drugs were great!

Granted, once home – and once I had a light dinner – I took to my bed and stayed there until the next day. Best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time!

Thanks for joining me in my colonoscopy adventure. Hopefully, if you’ve never had one, you can see that there’s really nothing to be afraid of.  Sure, there’s some discomfort during the prep and possibly some during the procedure, but colonoscopies do save lives.  Most health insurance policies cover colonoscopies (routine or otherwise), so there’s really no excuse not to have it done.

If your doctor’s been urging you to get a colonoscopy, schedule it right now.  You’ll be glad you did.

PS: Once home, I thought I would treat myself to one of those nice deli-baked chocolate chunk cookies I love so much.  This batch was extra crispy.  It was only after I bit into it that I realized the extra crispiness was caused by finely crushed nuts in the batter.  Nowhere on the label did it say the cookies contained nuts, and I had been eating them for more than a week. Now I knew why I had started bleeding the week before my test.  Well, at least it wasn’t cancer.

__________

I love to hear from my readers. You may comment on this post, comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages, or email me at cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com

__________

Image by Cordelia’s Mom

Posted in Health, That's Life | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

WHAT IS A COLONOSCOPY REALLY LIKE? — The Infamous Prep

Who wants a day of fun? Just schedule a colonoscopy and follow the prep instructions carefully.

For those who don’t know it, there are several types of colonoscopy preps available.  For my first colonoscopy, I underwent one of the hardest preps, which entailed drinking 3 liters (that’s an entire gallon !!) of a solution called GoLytely, over a two-hour period, the morning of the test.  It’s hard enough for most people to drink that much in that short a time, but try doing so while experiencing vomiting and explosive diarrhea.  It sure cleared out the gut, but I thought I was dying.  Fortunately, I don’t think that particular prep is used much any more.

The second colonoscopy was also a “hard prep” which involved drinking two 10-oz bottles of magnesium citrate along with ingesting 4 or 5 Dulcolax pills.  You do not want to suffer this prep, trust me.  There are better ways to go (pardon the pun).  It was every bit as bad as the GoLytely prep.  The manufacturer had endeavored to flavor the magnesium citrate (choices were “lime” or “lemon”), and the doctor’s office suggested chilling it thoroughly to make it more palatable.  It was still disgusting – like drinking sea water. I managed to get it down despite the gagging,  and it worked almost immediately.  Boy, did it work!  Like with the GoLytely, I thought I was dying.

By the third colonoscopy, the medical community had developed a somewhat gentler prep procedure. My third prep consisted of drinking one 10-oz bottle of magnesium citrate, followed the next morning by mixing a 255-gram bottle of Miralax with 64 oz of Gatorade, which then had to be drunk within a 2-hour period.  No Dulcolax with that prep.  Gatorade choices were lime or orange – red and purple were not permitted because of the red dye.  So, I took my magnesium citrate the night before the test, and although it was disgusting, it was easier to get down than two bottles of the darn stuff.  The next morning, I mixed the Miralax with my orange Gatorade and chugged it down – the instructions said one 8-oz glass ever 15 minutes.  The first few glasses were easy (orange Gatorade is yummy), despite the fact that the Miralax is granular and didn’t mix in completely.  By the time I got to the fifth glass, I was definitely slowing down – well, as least insofar as drinking.  The other end was speeding up, and I debated just taking the mixture into the bathroom with me.  By the 7th glass, I totally gave up and poured the balance of the solution down the kitchen drain (it needed cleaning anyway).

Bear in mind that during all colonoscopy preps, you are instructed to drink lots and lots of clear fluids. Not all that easy to do while chugging down a 64-oz Miralax solution, but I did my best.

All those prior preps worked, and I got no complaints from the doctor that my colon wasn’t clean enough come test time. Yay for me.

Earlier this year, a family member had to undergo a colonoscopy. Said family member is on a salt-restricted diet, but had been given a prep sheet which included magnesium citrate.  During a routine visit to my own GI, I was speaking with my doctor’s office nurse about the various preps and my relative’s salt-restricted diet came into discussion.  The nurse agreed that magnesium citrate should not be ingested by someone on a salt-restricted diet and suggested my relative call his doctor to ask for a different prep.  She indicated there are a number of preps available, that each doctor has a preferred prep, but it didn’t really matter which prep was used because they all worked.

My relative was subsequently given a revised prep sheet which included only the Miralax solution, 4 Ducolax tablets and 4 Phazyme tablets – along with the usual clear liquid diet, of course. The difference with this prep was that it allowed no solid food for the entire day prior to the test.

Now, it was time for my fourth colonoscopy (see prior post). My doctor gave me the magnesium citrate/Miralax prep sheet.  The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to put myself through that.  I decided to make up my own prep.  After all, so long as that colon was clean, the doctor would have no way of knowing which prep I had actually used.

Basically, I used my relative’s revised prep sheet, except that I opted to have breakfast the day before my test. My test was scheduled for 1:00 pm on Friday, so I figured if I ate breakfast at 7:00 am on Thursday and then started the prep at 3:00 pm as indicated, it should all work out, so to speak.

I also opted to take half a vacation day on Thursday. No way was I going to ingest Dulcolax at work and take a chance of not only having to “go” at work, but then also facing a longish drive home in that condition.  Been there, done that.  Not fun.

I delayed the start of the prep procedure by an hour so that we would be able to take Puppy Cody out for her normal evening walk. I figured I could sit in the car while hubby walked her, if it came to that.  Fortunately, the Dulcolax didn’t hit my system right away.  Probably I could have saved that half-day of vacation, but what the heck, at least I got the laundry done.

The new instructions said to mix the Miralax/Gatorade at 4 pm and then let the solution sit. I put it in the fridge.  How come no one ever thought of that before?  By the time I was ready to drink it, the solution was thoroughly dissolved and had settled into a nice, lightly gelled drink.  It tasted amazingly like a Creamsicle!  When I started drinking it at just after 6 pm, it went down like a yummy milkshake.

Well, at least the first 3 glasses did. Once the prep started working, I had to take a break from drinking anything at all.

I’m on Balsalazide Disodium for my colitis. I don’t know exactly how that medication works, but somehow it reduces inflammation and allows solids to digest more easily.  Perhaps that’s why, once the Miralax solution started working, the entire contents of my digestive tract literally just slid their way through.  Easy peasy.  Only mild cramps.  An hour or two later, I was pretty much done.

But I still had to finish that Miralax. I made it to the very last glass and found I could no longer stand the taste of Creamsicle.  I dumped the last glass down the kitchen drain.

Another dose of Dulcolax, followed by the Phazyme, and my prep was done for the evening. I was exhausted and went to bed.  Yes, I got up several times during the night to run to the bathroom, but by 2 am I was able to actually sleep.

The next morning, I slept as late as possible, took the remaining 2 Phazyme tablets and headed off to the hospital for my big day. Amazingly, I was not at all hungry – I believe the thicker consistency of the Miralax solution compensated for lack of food.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode – “Why doctors probably don’t appreciate patients like me.”

See you then.

__________

I love to hear from my readers. You may comment on this post, comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages, or email me at cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com

__________

Image by Cordelia’s Mom

Posted in Health, That's Life | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

WHAT IS A COLONOSCOPY REALLY LIKE?

No one ever wants to talk about it. The mere uttering of the word causes cringing, often accompanied by nervous giggling.  Yes, we are going to discuss: colonoscopy.

According to the American Cancer Society:

“Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: about 1 in 22 (4.49%) for men and 1 in 24 (4.15%) for women.”

Those statistics don’t sound like something to get terribly upset about, do they?   But if you have a disease that puts you at risk for colon cancer, they become dramatically more meaningful.  One of those diseases is ulcerative colitis – and for those on long-term Remicade treatment, the risk is even higher.

That’s why my primary physician and my GI specialist both recently urged me to undergo a repeat colonoscopy. It was my fourth colonoscopy, which I believe makes me a bit of an expert on what to expect.

Tomorrow, I will begin boring you with my most recent colonoscopy experience.   I will publish that story in two parts – the first dealing with the infamous prep prior to the test, and the second covering the test itself and the recovery afterwards.

I apologize to those readers who are a little squeamish – I am not going to sugar-coat anything. The two-part post will be a bit long, but I do promise that there will be a fair amount of humor which you won’t want to miss.

If you are facing a colonoscopy, or have already had one, or are just curious about what’s involved, please join me starting tomorrow for: “Are we having fun yet?

__________

I love to hear from my readers. You may comment on this post, comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages, or email me at cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com

__________

Image by Cordelia’s Mom

Posted in Health, That's Life | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

The Dream

Such a beautiful day!  As I sit looking out over the luscious green grass in my new backyard, I think of all the wonderful things to do this summer.  I can get a picnic table and host a family barbecue while Puppy Cody frolicks through the flowers and chases bunnies.  I can plant trees along the newly erected back fence, and watch them grow.  Or I can simply lounge outside, drinking wine and reading a good book.  The sunshine streaming in the window brings with it the warm spring air.   The robins and butterflies have arrived.  Finally!

***

Yep, it’s a dream. More snow is  on the way tonight.  sigh

Granted it won’t be a lot of snow and it won’t stick, but still …

As a longtime resident of Buffalo, New York, I’ve never much been affected by dark winter weather, yet even I am suffering the beginnings of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Ugh.  Too much cold for too long a period of time.  Surely, Mother Nature will take pity on us soon?

One can only hope.

BTW, for unrelated reasons, I will be away from WordPress for the next few days.  Please be kind to each other in my absence.  Have fun, but don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.  Says Mom.

See you in a few.

__________

I love to hear from my readers. You may comment on this post, comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages, or email me at cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com

__________

Images by Cordelia’s Mom

Posted in That's Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 19 Comments