02 September 2012


I'm officially an old man, now that I'm having old man medical tests. This week, it was a colonoscopy, for no reason other than that I have reached a "certain age" and ought to have one.

I was quite nervous about this one. I had a brief visit with this doctor a few months back for some kind of related exam that turned out to be only preparatory. Still, at that time I had to do two enemas beforehand and then worry that I might embarrass myself by not having done a good enough job. I guess I did okay on that measure and the visit went okay, but I had several little bumps burned from my insides and that caused a swelling that made me feel constipated for a couple of days. You can see, then, how I might be nervous about a test that seemed more complicated.

The preparation was awful for this. Stop eating at 10 am the day before, with dosings of laxatives at 2 pm and 6 pm and then the next morning at 7. The instructions I got from my doctor and the ones on the inside of the Pico-salax warned that it might become hot when mixed with the cold water (kind of scary), but it didn't for the first dose. Friends had warned me that the product would work really quickly, so I was quite anxious when nothing happened until more than an hour and a half after drinking it! I dutifully consumed plenty of clear liquids, including some blue G2 (Gatorade product) and lots of my own iced herbal teas. I was convinced that I was washing out my bladder more than anything else.

I need not have worried. Things loosened up quite nicely and, by the end of the evening, all was liquid and even a little blue (which is disturbing). The morning dose of half a bottle of magnesium citrate solution acted similarly, to the point that I thought I might be late, as I was hesitating to get into the shower not knowing whether I might have to leap out to sit on the toilet. Yes, liquids from some sources are okay in the shower, but I can't wrap my head around what I was picturing there…

I got to the hospital early enough to update my hospital card (I have three of these from the different installations of the McGill University Health Centre, which seems wasteful, but I digress). I got some quick instructions from the person renewing my card about how to get to the place I needed to get to (the Royal Victoria Hospital is a crazy Victorian structure with odd tunnel and bridge connections between a bunch of buildings, so the help was total needed!). I made it to the clinic!

Upon check-in I had a hospital bracelet attached to me and waited. When called, you go through to the patient area and change into two hospital gowns (one each way…why don't they just rethink the design of these things?) and wait again. Little intravenous thingy installed on my right arm (the vein that usually manages to be the only one findable for blood tests), wait again.

When I went in to have the colonoscopy, I was installed on the bed, hooked up to the blood pressure and pulse monitoring machine and the nurse asked if I had sleep apnea. When I said I was beginning to suspect I might, she gave me oxygen (tube with little nostril inserts) for the duration. Then I got a dose of something explained as something to relax me and something for the pain. The next thing I knew I was waking up in another room in the same bed!

If I hadn't been in the hospital, I would wonder if I had been roofied! Knocked right out and someone doing things in my anal passages! But, like I said, I was in the hospital, so no such shenanigans.

They left me a lovely printout describing the procedure and its outcomes, with some delightful pictures of my inner passageways. To my great relief, it also said "The quality of the preparation was good." Phew! I got up, sat for the required few minutes and then got dressed and went home for a much-needed lunch.

On the whole, the preparation was way more intimidating and difficult than the test itself. But I'm still not sure how I feel about the recommendation to repeat in 7 to 10 years.

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