Chat with Deb — Colonoscopy Time!
Things have changed in the last twenty years, it’s turned out
DEB: “Just so you know, honey, I added a bottle of white wine to the fridge. The box of blush is too close to red and the bottle of peach moscato is too close to orange.”
ME: “But white wine is…”
DEB: “Basically just white grape juice, right? Which I’m allowed to have, according to the list.”
ME: “Makes sense to me, luv!”
DEB: “Also, I started drinking the ginger ale. To calm my stomach.” (Her stomach decides to gurgle loudly at that moment) “It’s not UNcalm right now, it’s just noisy.”
I had my first colonoscopy twenty years ago, in my mid-40s. A test on my stools had popped positive for possible blood; I had tested negative for problem hemorrhoids. I had a scan of my upper GI tract with nothing looking suspicious. Next on the list was a peek at my large intestine. Which became yet another exposure to how little mainstream medicine understood about diabetics. I was given instructions that would, if followed exactly, have resulted in me having severe hypoglycemia a few hours before the procedure, based on the timelines they gave me for what foods and liquids to consume. After a day spending many long hours sitting on the toilet drinking gallon jugs of laxative at one end while the other end discharged it. The procedure itself¹ was no big deal, but the prep was an ordeal from hell.
Deb’s first colonoscopy was part of her “Welcome to age fifty! Here’s your AARP card. When do you want your colonoscopy?” ceremony. She hated the prep like I did, but didn’t have to deal with navigating the mess that sloppy blood sugars can be for T2 diabetics. She thought the procedure itself was great— “Best rest I’ve had in years!” — both the time under anesthetic and the sound sleep when she got home.
Her next procedure at age 60 was basically the same, but this time they found polyps (which they removed and determined were benign).
With a family history of cancer, she has to go through it again every seven-odd years (closer to eight). This time around the list of dos/don’ts and eats/don’t eat is much longer.
DEB: “I can’t have fancy bouillon? I lived off bouillon the last two times!”
ME: “What’s wrong with fancy bouillon?”
DEB: “It has… seasonings. Apparently. Those are now bad for me. Also, Jello now can’t be anything even vaguely in the red spectrum. So not even orange or purple Jello. Or anything else red, orange, or purple. Also anything with bran or possible fiber.”
ME: “So… after years of telling us fiber is our friend and eat lots of it, they are now saying it will kill us if we eat it before a colonoscopy? This will make it hard to plan a menu (I have been incorporating fiber into our menus for so long I don’t even think about it).”
DEB: “No worries, honey, I have a shopping list all planned out. We’ll be fine.”
The prep procedure was much easier this time around. The laxative used was basic OTC rather than the turbo-powered prescription glop of previous times. Although the timelines had Deb up late (for one dose to finish) and up early (to start drinking the next dose), she was able to have regular food (albeit highly restricted as to color and fiber) until the day before the procedure.
DEB: “Overall, this has been much better than the last times!”
Check-in for the procedure was at 11:30AM. We knew the health complex well; it is where Deb had her gallbladder removed, and we have given blood several times there. Good staff, both the support and the medical, and they did not disappoint us this time. Some of them even smiled at my jokes.²
Some things were the same as before—step into an alcove, pull the curtain, take off everything (including jewelry and underwear; this was mentioned several times, so I can only guess that with previous patients there have been problems) and change into hospital garb.
ME: “Hey! This is like a real hospital gown! When I did it they had this horrible paper outfit with a tear-away flap over the butt.”
DEB: “And the socks are decently thick. Ooh, Jackster, can I ask you to tie my gown strings?”
Procedures had also changed so that Deb was put on an IV before going into the procedure room. This proved problematic because Deb had to not drink anything (including water) because of the anesthesia, and the lack of hydration caused her veins to shrink. It took three tries for Sandy the RN to get the needle in (with me checking out the fine detailing on the plain wallpaper the whole time—I don’t do needles well). But my lady was a trouper the whole time.
SANDY: “I’m so sorry!”
DEB: “No no, my mom was the same way! We just have those kind of veins!”
We did not have to wait long before they took Deb away to the procedure room and directed me to the waiting area. I was set up so that my phone would get texts on her status. Very nice!
It was less than half an hour from the initial status message to the announcement that she was out and I should come back to recovery. I didn’t even have time to work on this story! [Not complaining, just commenting.]
ME: “Hi honey! You’re awake!”
DEB: (groggy but coherent) “Uh huh. Hi, honey!”
ME: (hugging her awkwardly—she still has the IV tube in—but enthusiastically) “You look great! You look absolutely beautiful!”
NURSE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PRIVACY CURTAIN: “Awww!”
DEB: (to nurse) “I know. He always does this! (to me, seeing that I’m misty-eyed) Are you okay, Jackster? It was just a procedure.”
ME: “I know, I just… I just worry sometimes, is all, you know me. I’m fine.”
The doctor who did the procedure came back to tell us that they found three polyps, removed them, and sent them to the lab. Results in a week or so, but meanwhile everything was fine and Deb could leave as soon as she was ready. She got the IV taken out, got dressed (with a little help from me, but not much), and our RN told me that once I got the car to the door she would have Deb out within a couple minutes. Totally true.
DEB: (after getting into our car) “Let’s go home, honey! I’m ready for a real lunch!”
ADDENDUM: I found an article on colonoscopies since Crow’s Feet published this; it said that consuming alcohol before surgery can cause dehydration. Oh. So that might make it harder to find a vein, say? Oops… Sorry, Debster!
¹Deb came to get me when they told her I’d awakened from the anesthesia; she found a bald, bearded fellow, happy, chatty, talking up his nurses and being the life of the party. Deb went back to the desk nurse who had called her back to announce, “That fellow in #17? He seems like a VERY nice guy, but I have to tell you he is NOT my husband.” I have no memory of that, and all I can tell you is that my first memory has me mostly dressed already with Deb holding my hand and smiling at me. Apparently I am one of those folks who does not suffer from post-anesthetic depression.
²Yes, they were wearing masks so I couldn’t see the smiles, but I can always tell when someone appreciates my humor. It’s a gift.