I thought it was the AARP invite that meant I was old. Then it was wearing bright green pants. I was wrong on both counts.
It is getting a colonoscopy. Sitting on the gurney, dressed in my patient garb (which includes socks by the way) the doctor came in and asked if I was having any symptoms, and I said no. “Screening?” Yep. Over fifty you get one, like it or not. All week long I had mentioned that this was coming and the only ones who nodded with recognition were my elders, not my juniors. I was about to be initiated. Colonoscopy is the hazing of the aging.
I was nervous. The whole concept was a little unsettling. Anyone who has ever seen the “Alien” pop out of a man’s chest has a little cinematic dread of things snaking about in there. And the tension is exacerbated by the prep, which requires fasting from solids for 24 hours and then using some pharmacological Draino in the hours immediately before. While hardly onerous or painful, a whole day of ginger ale and jello and broth is crummy.
Overall, though, that was the hardest part. At the risk of revealing some fraternity secret, it really is a breeze these days. I hear stories from a generation before. While I had to down a half gallon of laxative spiked Gatorade, they had to force a gallon. I daren’t imagine the segmented garden hose that must have been the norm earlier, something as terrifying to them as the foot powered dentist drill was in its day. I went in the door at 10 a.m. and was walking out an hour later.
The hesitation is because of the best part - the drugs. But let me back up and give you the whole rationale. I have a new physician and he said I should get either a colonoscopy or a flex-sig. That’s what we proctological vets call a flexible sigmoidoscopy. The former is the big kahuna test, the gold standard as it were, the intestinal full monty. It views the whole length, sex feet count ‘em, of the colon. A flex-sig only covers the part of it, the sigmoid colon. So why bother with a flex-sig? Slightly less involved prep and lower cost.
But a dear soul I know well, who opted for the flex-sig, said she would do the colonoscopy next time because the former did not have sedation, and it was right unpleasant. And as long as one is sedated, why not a nap with a purpose, so to speak.
So there I was with an IV in my right arm, the cute little bracelet and the Johnny (and the socks!) waiting for my first dance with Laocoon. I was driven on my gurney down the hall, head propped up. I felt so royally treated that I gave Elizabethan light bulb waves as I rolled along. And this was before the medication.
In the procedure room I was rolled onto my left side, the nurse attached electrodes to monitor my heart and blood pressure. Then she plugged in my sedatives (Vercet and Demerol I am told) and off we went. Having lots of hair, I did not relish the moment when these and the IV would be removed.
I remember being awake the whole time, feeling things going on as it were but slightly removed. A screen nearby allowed me to watch as the doctor spelunked his way along. It was rather interesting in a distant sort of way.
Aside: I remembered how when I had an earache years ago the doctor gave me codeine. When my friends asked me if it helped, I said, “Yeah,” with a relaxed grin. “Pain gone?” “No, but I don’t care.” This is exactly how opiates work, I later learned. The pain still happens and you do feel it, but it registers as a sensation not an affliction.”
In short order I was on my way back to the cubicle. They yanked my IV and I was putting on clothes soon after that. Truly, I did not feel dopey or sleepy or any other dwarfish sensations. We walked home and I went of to work by foot within a half an hour. I was in my office by 1215.
There was a lovely relaxed quality I enjoyed for some time, and I realized my responses were slower. Driving was something even I did not want to do. But by the time I got to the office, enjoying the lingering calm of my sedation, I felt fully recovered. I was in fact.
But later, my wife told me that after I returned to the cubicle I commented on the how the EKG electrodes were gone and I didn’t notice. "I remember that" I said, but not the other two times it turns out. "You were a little stupid for a while," she said and kissed me.
I looked back upon hearing that and realized the clarity of my memory of was fading with each hour. It was pretty clear at the time, but the drugs put my recollection on shifting sand. I still remember the parts I told you, but now wonder what I did or said that have vanished.
I must say, though, that I can understand why people like the stuff. It is the Johnny Walker Blue of buzzes - so smooth it feels natural, like what you should feel like all the time. The only trouble is, if you do that, you have no good times to remember afterward.
Think I’ll stick with my shiraz – it’s cheap and legal and if you take too much you remember it really well in the morning.