I recently had a colonoscopy. It wasn’t my first. However, there were a couple of firsts during this procedure. One of my revelations caused me to stop and say, wait! what? Before I understood what was happening, I had to ask for clarification. It was made perfectly clear, and it was hilarious. I’ll get to that in a minute (if you can’t wait, skip ahead).
Why is a Colonoscopy Important?
“About 1 in 20 individuals in the U.S. will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their life,” says Dr. Wallace. “We have the technology right now to prevent colorectal cancer. And we just need to make sure that everybody is coming in to get screened for it.” — Mayo Clinic Minute: The importance of a colonoscopy
What is the Procedure?
“A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to detect changes or abnormalities inside the entire colon. A colonoscopy takes about 30 to 60 minutes and screening is generally repeated every 10 years if no abnormalities are found and you don’t have an increased risk of colon cancer.” — Colon cancer screening: Weighing the options
What’s the Biggest Challenge?
For me, it was the preparation. My bowels needed to be evacuated, which means you spend the night before the procedure on the bathroom floor. Two days before the colonoscopy, I stopped eating solid foods and (drinking adult beverages). The day before, I began taking a high dose of a powerful laxative; it worked. I slept on the toilet. Kind of. Two hours before the procedure, I stopped all liquids as well. There was no morning coffee for me.
The First Surprise
The anesthetic I was given is propofol, “It is a short-acting anesthetic that has the advantage of wearing off relatively quickly,” Dr. Rock explains. Propofol works quickly; most patients are unconscious within five minutes. when the procedure is over, and we stop the intravenous drip, it generally takes only 10 to 15 minutes before he or she is fairly wide awake again.” — Yale Medicine — Anesthesia for Colonoscopy
So, here’s the thing. It can, and usually does with me, cause mild temporary amnesia. I don’t remember a damn thing, which is probably good. However, this time was different. I woke up during the procedure, laying on my side, not feeling a thing, while facing a screen where I saw the insides of my colon. I said hello to the staff and then asked the doctor what the little yellow things were. He told me no worries just particles of fat. I had never awakened during a procedure. It was … different.
The Big Surprise
The big surprise came just before the procedure began; I was wheeled into the room by two nurses. As we waited for the doctor, I began a conversation. I learned that this team, by their estimation, had done more than 15,000 colonoscopies. It inspired confidence.
And then I asked, “Okay, what’s the funniest thing that happens here?”
They both stopped and stared at each other and then looked at me. Finally, one said, “Patients leave things for the doctor.”
I said, “That’s nice; what kind of things, presents, cards, flowers?”
The other nurse said, “No, they leave things for the doctor … down there.”
I stared at her in disbelief. And then I started laughing. I asked what kind of things, and they told me: notes written with sharpies saying exit only, sticky notes, and even tattoos with the same, as well as paper notes rolled up and inserted. I couldn’t make this up. And … they left things. Sometimes patients left objects in their anus such as plastic toys, game pieces, and plugs. Wow.
So, here’s the thing. My next colonoscopy will be in five years, which means I have five years to decide what to leave for the doctor. Maybe I’ll leave a tiny race car hoping for a speedy recovery.
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