Monday, November 17, 2008

Not to be Indelicate, but...

I had a colonoscopy today, so be nice to me, OK? I'm not the type to trot out all my ailments and drag complete strangers through a grand tour, so don't expect a blow-by-blow account (I guess I forgot about the rotator cuff thing--maybe I am a bit of a hypochondriac). Anyway, you don't need to hear about mine, since Dave Barry has already described my procedure in one of his books, which I've taken the liberty to completely plaigerize and publish below.

Suffice it to say that I sit on a bike seat for a fair number of hours each week, and while I've never been afflicted with--ahem--numbness, I have experienced other untoward effects of prolonged sitting. The thing is, bike seats don't allow the use of those little donut shaped pillows to ease the pain. Bike racers are addicted to pain, so that part has never been an issue for me, I just live with it.

But bike racers are also very concerned about keeping as much oxygen around as possible, and I have less of it available than many of my beanpole comrades, so when I started noticing what seemed to be large amounts of my red cells floating in the commode, I was galvanized into action.
Fortunately, Dr. Gut tells me after the fact that I have a few innocuous vessels up in there that should respond to more fiber in my diet. Of course, I didn't tell him that I had already diagnosed my colon tumor and was drafting my deathbed speech, so I didn't catch right away that my digestive organs actually passed with flying colors.

It was sort of disconcerting, in a good way. I am elated to find out that everything is A-OK back there, and I don't have to think about it again for a number of years. Still, it was a sobering reminder of my mortality (I've had several this year), and if you're my age but possess the body of a 25 year old, your innards are still 50ish and you need to let Dr. Gut have a go at them.
Anyway, because I couldn't have said it better, here is Dave Barry describing my procedure (I got this from an email claiming Barry wrote it, but caveat emptor since email is the most efficient rumor mill and source of urban legends ever known to mankind):


I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis. Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!'

I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America 's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor.

Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground. MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point.

Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.'You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,'I said.

And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that It was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.

Thanks for the email, Pat. Sorry for not asking permission to publish this, Dave. Tell you what, I'll share half of all the revenue generated by this post. 50% of zero is...


JennyP said...

This is a good time to meditate on humility. There are very few moments more humbling then laying on that table with the back flap open with a doc and nurses ready to do their job.

Anonymous said...

That last post was from Jeff P. Unlike you and I , Jenny has never had this experience.