Cathy Hamilton: Colonoscopy painful, but meds rock
December 6, 2007
I am lying on a gurney, waiting for anesthesia before my first colonoscopy. (Chalk this up as Humiliating Midlife Experience Number 37, Number 36 being last night’s colonoscopy prep.)
This seems like the perfect time to re-evaluate the resolution I made on my 50th birthday. Namely, to pay better attention to my health, start seeing the doctor regularly, and quit gambling that I can outrun or outwit all those diseases that hover around unsuspecting middle-aged bodies and strike when they’re not paying attention.
At least, that’s what I believed until this moment.
Earlier, my kind and efficient nurse advised me on how the procedure would go, explaining that the drugs I am about to receive (Demerol and Versed) will put me into a deep, but short-lived sleep. I wouldn’t feel or remember a thing. “Delightful,” I said. “Let’s get this party started.” (And while you’re at it, give me something to forget last night. Because I’d rather have four root canals and a full body wax than go through that again.)
And then it hit me.
“Wait!” I said to the nurse, just before signing on the waiver’s dotted line. “Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly support the ‘feel no pain’ philosophy. I have it embroidered on a pillow, for crying out loud. But I need to know what goes on in that room. I need to remember. I’m a newspaper columnist now, you see, and this is my thing – recounting the mortifying moments of my life as an aging boomer so that other boomers will think, ‘I can relate’ (or, ‘Somebody get this chick a padded room!’) How can I write about a major mid-life medical test after you erase my memory chip!? No, thanks. I’d like to be awake for the procedure. After all, Katie Couric did it, and look where she is today!”
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An odd expression crept across the nurse’s face.
We’d just met 10 minutes before, so I hadn’t had time to learn her looks, like one would know the looks of, say, a spouse or an old friend. Still, her countenance was as easy to read as a first-grade primer. It screamed, “Somebody get this chick a padded room.”
Instead of summoning an attendant from the psych ward, she calmly explained why patients are given the Demerol/Versed cocktail, using a compelling visual aid – an illustration of the average U-shaped colon compared to the straight and narrow tool used to perform the procedure. I know I am treading dangerously into “too much information” territory but, suffice it to say, she made her case.
“OK,” I replied. “Give me all the drugs you can find.”
She took my temperature and blood pressure (which was a little high – surprise, surprise) and started my I.V.
Then, she studied my stylish hospital bracelet and asked me to state my name, birth date and what procedure I expected to receive today. At first, I though it was some kind of pre-sedation aptitude test. Then I realized it’s a formality to prevent colonoscopy patients from getting their tonsils removed by mistake. (Hey! Is that an option? Because I’ll take it!)
Finally, I was good to go to the operating room for the show I was never going to see.
And now, I lie in wait. My feet are covered with blankets fresh out of the warmer, and the doctor – a boisterous and jovial man (because if there ever was a job that required a sense of humor, this is it) – is chatting me up about where I went to high school and what my dad did for a living. I figure this is his way of putting me at ease. But all I can think about is how thirsty I am for that Demerol/Versed cocktail.
At last, I hear him say, “I’m going to give you the sedative now.”
And that’s all she wrote.
I wake up, surrounded by curtains, nurses and my husband, who has magically appeared to drive me home. (Did I call him? Where is my Blackberry?!) Through the fog, I hear someone mention a polyp : looks benign : no heavy lifting … take it easy :
And I think to myself, that wasn’t bad at all. The nurse was right. What I didn’t know apparently didn’t hurt me. I think I could come back in five years to do this again.
And if I could get hold of those drugs the night before, I might be back sooner than that.
Cathy Hamilton is columnist for Boomergirl.com and an empty nester. Events recounted here may be embellished, exaggerated or completely made up because she can’t remember squat anymore.