Colonoscopy

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Endoscope.jpeg
Lights, Camera, Action: the joy of endoscopies.Sometimes you've got to wonder who thought up the idea of making a prehensiled marital aid, and probing people's orifices with it; or what their true motivation was. I had the pleasure of taking it from both ends; not at the same time, thank goodness. These are my stories; the names have been kept the same to incriminate the guilty.

Precursor

I had an iron stomach, and could, and would eat anything. Then around 24 or so, I got majorly ill with some death-virus. I'd had mumps, but this made all my glands swell up much more, including the ones under my pits as well as others. I was not a happy camper. They did some tests, and gave me real definitive answers; it looks like mono in some ways, hepatitis in others, and a couple of other things; but you're testing negative for all of them - to go home and sleep it off. It took weeks or months to get over that little Lovejoy.

The side effects were after that I started getting anxiety attacks, phobia, and my system went from being a rock to being a wimp. I kept having many stomach and intestinal things. The Doctors at my HMO (Kaiser) were not exactly what I considered to be above the barbers and blood-letters of lore; well except that at least the old style doctors tried harder. I'm sure like many organizations, Kaiser has good Hospitals and bad ones, and good Doctors and bad ones; mine seemed to have been the latter.

I went back again and again, complaining about stomach problems and so on. They said, "nope, nothing". Only they'd say that after violating with the fickle-finger-of-fate; the prostate exam and some smear test. I think they figured if they kept violating me, I'd get sick of it, and leave them alone. I must admit it wasn't a popular activity. I'd once had a girlfriend try that trick on me (without warning) as some sick bastard had told her that guys liked that, and I damn near knocked myself unconscious on the headboard. And the first time I had that done by a Doctor I thought it was a joke. "You want to what? Why in the world would you want to do that". Later as he was leaving he said, "things look fine Mr. Every". I shot back, "You've done things to me I wouldn't let my wife do, you can call me Dave". I broke through a doctor's professional demeanor with that one.

Finally, after enough complaining, they did an upper GI. I guess they got bored with my ass and wanted to start violating me in new ways. This consists of drinking a barium malt that tastes pretty bad, with pop-rocks that bloat you up like a balloon; and then laying on their side, while they take X-rays. Then later burping and farting like a bassoon soloist trying to do the entire 5th symphony by yourself, to try to get all the gas out of your system. I asked others in the industry if this test ever shows anything and the answer was very rarely; mostly it is an expensive waste of time to cover them liability wise. It was in my case as well. "See, we told you it was nothing, now go home".

It wasn't that the test was that bad; just useless. They labeled me with IBS; which is "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" or it means roughly, "We're clueless, but we'll blame your body". It also meant that all future doctors would ignore any symptoms because you now had a scarlet "IBS" on your forehead (or chart).

I ignored the symptoms for a few years, but they kept getting worse. And I'd had such a miserable experience, that I avoided Doctors for a while. Finally, I could ignore them no more. I went back into a different doctor and had paid for my own insurance. This experience was quite a bit better.

They did a few tests, and things were not great. They found out I had H-Pylori; that bacteria that causes ulcers. That was a fun treatment of mega-antibiotics (a few different types), and some stomach acid reducers and so on. You know, sometimes you don't realize that you're in pain, until they take it away. I slept, I felt good; I nearly cried with relief. I just couldn't believe the weight that was lifted when the pain subsided.

The treatment got rid of the H-Pylori, but after a while, the symptoms came back (actually new ones; more reflux and heartburn than other stuff). This is common - but the bacteria increases your chances of stomach cancer and other stuff, so you should probably get rid of it. But the main symptoms were still there; which were mostly intestinal. So finally I got to see a Gastroenterologist (internal specialist). I had blood in my stool, so it was time to look around. Oh, joy.

Backside

The procedure sounds pretty simple; they put you on happy drugs, stick a camera 4'+ up your backside, and look around. I could personally think of better career choices, but heck, why not let them party if it will help; I'd be unconscious.

They give you this stuff to drink the night before. You mix the toxic cool-aid yourself; fruit-flavored nasty in a jug. Then you drink like 16 oz. every 10 minutes until it is all gone (hours later). Yummy. This stuff is to laxatives, what Niagara Falls is to a garden hose. I got to about the third cup until my body just went insane. I've had food poisoning that had less violent reactions than that filth. There was a really stupid movie; Dumb and Dumber, where one guy poisons another with laxatives as he goes out on a hot date, and where he had to actually hang on the pot to keep from blowing himself off. I had him beat. Fact is funnier or less believable than fiction.

Obviously, the purpose of this nuclear sludge was to clean you out for the cameras. And clean it did. I'm pretty sure I passed a spleen, kidney and few other major organs. After about 3/4ths of that stuff, my body just started throwing it up - it wanted no more of the stuff, and I'd had enough as well. Finis. I was as clean as they were going to get it. I poured the rest out and hoped it didn't rot out our pipes. I went and tried to sleep off the residuals, with the occasional mad dash.

The procedure itself was cake. I walk in, strip down, put on my "dignity-removal gown". They put in an IV, and try to explain some stuff, which you aren't very attentive to, because you just keep seeing this very long camera that they're wrapping some giant condom around and greasing up. You know what's coming next, and you're clinched so tight they couldn't get a thermometer up there. Fortunately, it's no thicker than a finger; so it shouldn't be too bad.

I quipped to the nurse, "couldn't I just go to a gay bar in San Francisco instead?" Her reply, "if you like". Gee thanks. She wasn't the joking type. At which point, they shot something in my IV, and then I was waking up.

I guess the little happy cocktail messes with your short-term memory. I remember as I was waking up, I kept saying, "what time is it", and "they're not done yet". My wife was there, and chuckling in that little way that wives have, that let you know they're taking all too much pleasure over your discomfort, and thinking of some past transgression you must have made. She kept repeating her answers, which I'd forget and re-ask. After, about 5 tries of "they forgot to do the procedure", and my wife repeating the time and that I'd been done, I finally got it. I said, all too loudly, "cool! Next time I'm molested, I'll opt for roofies". Cracking wise about the date-rape drugs might not be politically correct, but hey, it's my sense of humor. Curtains aren't very private, and I heard chuckles from recovering people around me as well as nurses. Glad I could entertain.

I was dressed and outta there pretty quick. I was a little wobbly walking; more from the drugs than any violation. My visions of walking like a cowboy were not reality; and in truth, I was mildly sore for a couple of days - but it was more rash sore than bruise sore. I quipped with the Doctor, "next time talk dirty to me first, and use more lubricant". Most just give me that look, "yeah, like I haven't heard that one before".

The procedure showed that I had colitis; basically, the body's immune system is attacking the intestinal lining. Good for me. While I wasn't enthused at the prognosis, I was happy that they found something. I knew there was a problem all along - and it was good that someone else realized it. Of course, they can't do much about it. There are a few drugs, but I've avoided them; many have serious side effects. But still, it is good to know that I wasn't just imagining it.

I was lucky, I had a mild strain (at least so far) called "Microscopic Colitis". Story of my life; I don't know whether I'm unlucky for getting crap that others don't have or having to have all this stuff happen to me. Or whether I'm lucky because I usually get light cases of everything, and tend to do better than most with the same things. No sense whining about it; as they say, "there's nothing to see here. Move on".

All in all, this was a reasonable procedure; and the dread of having it was far worse than the actual procedure itself. My wife and Mother-in-law, and others I know, have had the lower-GI. This basically consists of someone dancing on an enema bag full of barium until you are about 4 quarts past full, and then asking you to lay down (and clinch) while they take pictures; and then a mad dash-waddle to the bathroom (using your thumb as a cork) while you try not to hose down the lab like a rain-bird. Not only is that procedure more humiliating, and far less comfortable, but the results are near useless. I guess they think if you don't have a tumor the size of a bowling ball (the resolution of the scanner), then you're fine. And worst of all, you're completely conscious for the whole procedure - instead of blissful twilight sleep (with the amnesiacs). So if you have to have it done, just get the endoscopy done, and tough out the night before; and at least you don't have to be as aware of what is going on.

Open Wide

I moved again and was getting a new doctor (specialist). And once seeing him, I went through the history and had the pictures to prove it. I was still symptomatic, but he wanted to do an upper endoscopy to make sure the H-Pylori was gone, and to make sure that I didn't have Chrone's disease (basically a turbo-version of Colitis, that goes into the upper tract and even throat).

Ahhh, double joy. Now I got to deep throat the same endoscope that they'd used on the other end. Well, not the exact same one. At least I hope not. I cracked wise, about what's the difference between the upper and lower endoscopy, and the nurse replied nothing. I said, "uh huh! The taste". Sometimes you can make the medical staff laugh.

This procedure was even easier. No turbo-lax. Just fast beforehand, come in, they knock you, and you wake up with very little sense of time or surroundings. Again, in my groggy state I quipped something; "Gads, now I know what Linda Lovelace must have felt like" as I realized I had serious rope burn in my throat. Again, the curtained area offered little privacy, as I realized my drugged-voice carries much farther than my normal indoor voice.

Actually, I was sore for a couple of days; and had a bit more the bruising kind of sore, as well as the burning kind. But it went away quickly. The good news was the Pylori was indeed gone, and while I had a small lesion-like ulcler (just inflamed spot - not real ulcer), it didn't look like I had any upper issues.

Conlcusion

All in all, neither procedure was that bad. And I guess there's nothing like sticking a camera inside someone and having a look around and taking a few samples while you're in there. Those diagnostics do far more than all the other less invasive procedures and seem to have bugged me a lot less. So what's more invasive? Three false negatives and humiliating tests while wide awake and then a belittling medical staff, or one more serious test that gets you real answers while you're knocked out? I'll opt for the latter.

My experiences were nothing unique. Many people will have the upper one, and it is scarier (nerve inducing) than traumatic. It seems that most guys will probably have to have that back-door experience after they pass 40 or so - or they should. It really helps with prostate, colon, intestinal cancers and many other issues. And it isn't a bad idea for women as well. Hey, the dignity removal part is the worst part - but you get over it quick. It isn't like your plumbing is really that different than anyone else's. And a few well-placed compliments from the medical staff can go a long way to alleviate that as well. At least I imagine they would. And the cleaning out part is far worse than the procedure. And while no one would opt for the stomach flu enthusiastically (at least I hope not), it isn't that bad, and you at least get it over and get some answers.

Stories about me:
Health : Nose JobBroken ArmsPhobias and AnxietyOvercoming AnxietyRoad to Recovery

2003.06.03