Sunday, February 26, 2006

the cuckoo's nest

While I sat in the waiting room of the Colonoscopy facility I seriously considered jetting. I really was not keen on the whole idea. I had to argue with the administrative woman to find out how much the anesthesia would cost me. She started raising her voice at me, and I broke down in tears saying, look you are not the one about to have this horribly invasive procedure and at a cost that is going to break me... ok I admit I can get a little dramatic... but alas that is why I'm a writer :) Finally she figured out that I wanted "conscious sedation" which did not require an anesthesiologist anyway. Sheesh, you know you can tell your doctor but you still have to deal with the bastardly administrators to get anything accomplished and they don't know what the hell they're talking about half the time. (Wait, my sarcasm valve has flapped open again).

So finally, I got called back to the backroom. I changed into this extra large gown (the only available size). As an extra small person it swamped me. You try tying these two little ties at the top, gown opening to the back without your ass sticking out - it takes creative gown management. So the room had a nurse's desk in the center, surrounded by about 20 wheeling beds with faded orange curtains around each bed. I thought the procedure would take place in this room at first and I was shocked! There were some people recovering, with oxygen mask on their face, lying on their side. Others were being talked to my doctors or nurses about their medical history: Do you have constipation? Hemorrhoids? blah blah blah - how unprivate can you get? I can't believe it's legal - what was that damn HIPPA law about anyway?! And in some beds, people are letting out huge gas noises as they recover from their colonoscopy. I was freezing, and I started to cry. I was scared and felt very vulnerable.

Some of my friends don't understand why the whole prospect scared me so bad. I think it comes down to two main things. One, I don't like the loss of control that giving one's life over to medical professionals that I don't necessarily trust entails. I know one has to be one's own medical advocate, but when you do, you inevitably annoy the people who are used to not having patients question them (doctors, nurses) because most blindly accept whatever is doled out. Second, the last time I was totally unconscious like this, I was raped.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. So, here I am lying in this little cubicle with faded orange curtains that only barely cover the bed, and the nurse brings me a heated blanket because I was shivering. She said she was inspired by my recently getting a literary agent and being a writer. She had asked me what I did and turns out she has always wanted to be to a writer. She was born one day after me - same year too. Anyway so she knew I was scared and said she could give me some Valium to "take the edge off". I think that phrase is so overused it's almost funny. At first I said no, but then I changed my mind. I was afraid that the Demerol would not take fast enough so I decided I'd get a little Valium while waiting. Mind you I have not touched a drug in over 15 years besides ibuprofen. As soon as she put the stuff in my IV, I started to feel very loopy.

So after what seemed like an interminably long wait, they wheeled me into the procedure room, and gave me the increased meds to put me out. The next thing I remember, Matt was sitting there and the nurse was saying "You're done! The procedure is over" and I was like, huh? what? The doc talked to me and said a few things, looks ok, blah blah blah. Some cells in my colon are dead, and the lining is turning dark colors. I only found out later that they did biopsies from the written report. Now why, I ask you, would he not tell me that then? The doc is very good but the nurse back at his doctor's office is horribly annoying. She smacks gum and is very flippant and nonchalant about your questions. These people don't realize the fears that people have about these things. Just because it's common place to them does not mean it is to the patient.

So the procedure itself, I do not remember but that is good. However I did not get an amnesiac at my request and so I do remember afterwards. It took me a while to get to the point I could sit up and walk. When I finally sat up I thought I was gonna hurl. I slept in Matt's truck all the way home, then I slept pretty much all afternoon and night. That is the story of my first colonoscopy. Oh joy.


Bob Sanchez said...

Ah Wendee, I understand your angst about colonoscopies. My second one is dutifully scheduled on my Outlook calendar for 2011, and you surely must know I am counting the days. Honestly, though, I don't recall the procedure being half as bad as the preparation. Did you drink that Golightly stuff? That was the absolute worst for me, facing the last glass with utter dread before simply pouring it down the toilet. I remember some years before having a sigmoidoscopy, which was worse for me than the colonoscopy: the doctor kindly told me that grown men often fainted during the procedure. Isn't that nice? Anyway, you are so much better off enduring the indignity and discomfort of a colonoscopy than avoiding it. My father in law died a terrible death because he never had himself checked until he felt the sharp pains in his abdomen. So you did it even though you hated it, and good for you. If you need one every ten years, as I do, just remember: you survived the first one, and you'll survive the next.

Anonymous said...

Just ran across your blog...and had to comment on this post. I'm glad you decided to post on a subject that is so personal and potentially embarrassing. It makes the topic less taboo, I think. Due to a chronic condition I am supposed to have a colonoscopy every two years since the age of 14! And I'm 32 now. Of course I try to avoid that as much as I can and since I have moved a lot - school, grad school - I manage to delay for several years. But the colonoscopies always catch up to me sooner or later. The hideous preparation stuff you have to drink has gotten slightly better over the years- less volume but not necessarily better tasting. The last time I went in for one the preparation didn't work the first time and so I had to fast for three days (two for the first failed attempt and one more for the second successful attempt). Fortunately, I have been lucky and had really kind nurses and good friends or family to take care of me afterwards. So congrats to you, and all of the rest of us too! for having come through this particular adventure!