Can you stand one more colonoscopy story?

December 19, 2009

I was having some problems in 2003 that I thought certainly meant ovarian cancer. Naturally, I was going batshit, but after two doctors and a technician with the ultrasound machine told me the ovary looked  normal, I had to go looking elsewhere for the problem. The resulting  colonoscopy experience would have made a great Seinfeld episode. After an office exam by the GI doctor, I scheduled the thing for 6/5/03, a  Friday, at 9 in the morning. Since I was working at CompUSA at the time, which meant being in front of a classroom every day, there was no way I could have gone in to work during the prep phase. So I took June 4 and 5 off and began the prep.

For those of you who haven’t done this, the prep starts out with, not an enema as you might imagine, but a four-ounce bottle of Fleet PhosphoSoda, which is a very concentrated solution of monobasic and dibasic sodium phosphates which up until recently was an over-the-counter product. (I learned that last year, PhosphoSoda became prescription-only. Apparently the possibility of renal damage exists:  Nice. That’s just fucking spiffy. I guess if I had had renal damage, I would have noticed by now…maybe?) By the way, what is it with Fleet? Enemas, oral laxatives?? I see on their web site their slogan is “Providing Care and Compassion for Your Family.” Maybe it should be: “Fleet. We’re Obsessed with Your Ass.”

Anyway, that Fleet PhosphoSoda is the Nastiest. Shit. Ever. It said on the package “lemon ginger flavor,” but folks, it’s not a cocktail mixer. Maybe it should be. Maybe a shot of Malibu would have gotten it down better. Maybe a shot of 10W40 motor oil would have gotten it down better. It took me, literally, fifteen minutes to get down two ounces. A colleague at  Camden Yards suggested I mix it with ginger ale rather than water. I neglected his advice and was very sorry. It was effective, however.  After an hour I was squirting jets of water that could have hosed down the side of a house. (Another Camden Yards colleague had warned me,  “You’ll be able to hit a pinpoint target at 20 feet.” He was right. Don’t ask me why I share intimate details of my ass with my baseball colleagues, as I am not quite sure myself.)
That afternoon I received a bill from the GI doctor, and called the office to ask them a question about it. The gal who answered the phone said, “Where are you?” 

“I’m at home, doing the prep.” (In my head I was thinking, where the fuck do you think I am, having to hit the head every five minutes??)

“You’re supposed to be here.”

“No, my appointment is for tomorrow.”

“No,” she replied, “your appointment is for today. The 4th.” 


I looked at my book and sure enough, I had put the appointment sticker on the wrong square on the calendar. “Well, I’m doing the prep now,” I said. “Any way he can squeeze me in tomorrow? I can’t take any more days off from work.”

She looked at his appointments and told me I could come in on the 5th for a 1:30 procedure. So what that did was add another 4 1/2 hours I had to go without food and water. Yuk. Oh, I forgot to add, adding insult to injury, you cease all food after 7 pm, and all liquids after midnight. Also, you take a Dulcolax tablet before going to bed. I was thinking at that point, what the hell for? There’s nothing left in there. Later it occurred to me it was simply a bowel relaxant at that point, but while I was taking it it sure sounded like gilding the lily, as it were.

So the next day I walk over to Mercy Hospital, over on St. Paul Street, with all the strength I could muster, and they get an IV in me, what a relief that was. “So! A day late and a dollar short, literally,” the doctor says to me. He’s actually a nice guy, just a smart ass, so I let him get away with it. It was my fault, after all.  Then we do the procedure. I had wanted to stay awake a la Katie Couric, but after the fentanyl drip all I remember is the nurse saying, “Okay, you’re going to feel the rectal swab;” something cold and wet on my butt (could have been a rectal swab, could have been a dog’s nose, at that point I didn’t really care); and then the doctor saying, “OK, kid, you’re clean, beat it, I’ll see you in ten years.”

I’m actually sorry I missed it.
The there was the issue of getting home. Mercy Hospital insists you have a trusted person take you home. In your narcotic-impaired state, they will not let you walk. They will not let you take a cab or public transportation. (They must have had a lawsuit, I figure.) I’m so used to being independent, this is a problem for me. I had to hang out for a couple of hours to wait for Lewis to get off work so he could come and take me home. He took me to a coffee bar over in Federal Hill and I tried to eat a panini.


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