Friday, August 17, 2012

Don't be afraid of a colonoscopy. Maybe my experience can put your mind at ease.

Two weeks ago, I had my first Colonoscopy. I should have had this performed years earlier, but I was too afraid of the procedure. Truthfully, I imagined great pain and was worried about the anesthesia. And what if they found something? I was sure that this was going to be the worst experience of my life.

But I was wrong. There was absolutely no pain and I was asleep during the entire procedure. Plus, the examination found nothing. No polyps or anything else.

I was afraid for no reason - except for fear itself.

The doctor recommended that I return in another 5 years. Since that is quite a while away, I know deep down that I will try to scare myself once again. So, I am documenting my colonoscopy experience for my future reference and to remind myself that there is nothing to be afraid of.

And perhaps that by reading about my experience, you will feel more comfortable with scheduling your own procedure.

My wife has been urging me to have a colonoscopy for several years. A good friend of ours died because he had colon cancer that was undetected until it was too late. He never had an examination and refused to believe that anything like that would happen to him. After his death, most of his closest friends took action and underwent this procedure. The only holdout was me. I was too afraid.

Finally last spring, I promised that I would get examined. But, I kept putting calling a doctor. Then one day in early June, I called a specialist and scheduled an appointment - three weeks later.  I still had time to chicken out.

However, I kept the appointment. First I was screened by a nurse. After taking my blood pressure, she told me that it was high (150+). Great I thought, now I have this to worry about. A little later, I met with the Doctor who asked about my medical history and explained the procedure. Then he lead me to a "scheduler". She checked my insurance and said that I would have to go to the hospital because it was my approved facility. She asked if I would like to have this preformed within the next week? "No I thought to myself". So, we agreed on a date 5 weeks away. At least I was safe for a while.

The Preparation
The next 4 weeks passed quickly and I tried to ignore my upcoming procedure. But, I had to pick up a prescription for a cocktail mixture that would clean out my system. The Saturday before, I visited the pharmacy and they gave me a huge plastic container partially filled with powder. Since my procedure was scheduled for Friday, the pharmacist instructed me to fill the container with water and pour one of the flavor packs into the mixture. He suggested lemon/lime and that is what I used.

So on Wednesday night, I followed his instructions. I placed the container in the refrigerator and went to bed. At 2:00 PM on Thursday afternoon, I had to begin drinking a glass of the solution. One glass every half hour until it was all gone. With 64 ounces of liquid, I wasn't finished until 9:30 at night. In between, I kept running to the bathroom.  The solution was not as bad as friends had said. It was a bit salty but it had a lemon taste (I chugged it).

The Procedure.
The colonoscopy was scheduled at 1:00 PM on Friday. My wife took me to the hospital at 11:30 AM. After filling out paperwork, I was escorted to a holding area. I was told to undress, put a gown on, and lay down on a stretcher type bed. Then, a nurse took an EKG.

Ever since I entered the hospital, I could feel my heart racing. I wanted to run out and forget the whole thing. But, I didn't.

I imagined that the results of the EKG would indicate I was having a heart attack. Then what I wondered? Shortly thereafter, I found out. Another patient next to me was informed that he was being rushed to Intensive Care rather than have a colonoscopy. He had a problem with his heart.

Through this, the nurses said that my EKG was normal and not to worry. They then hooked up an IV that entered a vein on my hand. As I laid there, other patients were rolled out of the room for their procedure.

Now it was my turn. They rolled my bed down the hall into a dreary and cluttered room. Two nurses followed me in. They immediately hooked me up to monitors. Then, one asked: "Is that his blood pressure?"  I looked at the monitor and I saw 180 over something. God, how was I going to survive this?

The Doctor and an Anesthesiologist entered. They placed a needle into the IV and said I would be going to sleep soon. I remember putting down my head.

It's Over
The next thing I knew they were waking me up. I don't remember how, but I remember opening my eyes. Only the 2 nurses were there. They said that everything was fine and that no polyps were found.  I asked about my blood pressure. They laughed and said it was normal. During the entire procedure it was 120 over something. They told me that it was normal to experience high readings before the procedure but that my health was entirely fine.

I was rolled back to the original holding room and was told to relieve any air I felt. Don't worry they said, "It doesn't smell". I laid there for a half hour and listened to myself and others serenade the nurses with a variety of farty toots! It was kinda funny.

Next the doctor stopped by and re-iterated that my procedure went well and that I had no polyps or other complications. He said to schedule another in 5 more years and he was off to the next patient.

The nurses then gave me a buttered roll and a Coke. When I was finished eating, I got dressed and they led me out of the hospital to my waiting wife.

I couldn't believe it. After all that worry I learned that it was only my imagination that caused that fear. I didn't feel a thing and there was no pain afterward.

So, if you are like me and have been putting off having a colonoscopy because of fear, I can only say "Ignore the Fear". Sure, you may be anxious, but when you wake up afterward, you will be asking yourself: "What was I afraid of anyway?".

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