Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Of Colonoscopies And A Life Well Led

Not to get too gross (although I've already done that here and here), but today I went in to have a colonoscopy.

For the past year I've been having weird digestive issues.  Lots of cramping, bloating, loose stool, gas, plus the acid reflux I already have.  Anyway, I've been a bit concerned, and because my grandfather died of colon cancer, I figured it might be worth checking out.

It may be something as simple as being lactose intolerant, but I wanted to make sure everything was good down there.

I've never had a colonoscopy before.  I was actually expecting the bowel prep to be worse than it was.  I was near the toilet a lot yesterday, but the whole thing was not nearly as bad as I had imagined.  

I've also discovered that a good way to lose five pounds in two days is to prep for a colonoscopy.  And actually, the cleanse made me feel a little more energetic and more buoyant.

Jonah drove me to the surgical center because I was not permitted to drive for 24 hours after the procedure (although I think I could have; I didn't notice any impairment after I woke up).  As we were driving, I said to Jonah, "I don't tell you this often enough, but you're one of the best things that has ever happened to me."

I ended up waiting a good while before I went back for my procedure.  While I was waiting, an elderly, hunched-over woman and her caretaker daughter came in.  The mother had to be in her 90s and I would have put the daughter in her 60s.  The daughter made sure the mother got to her seat all right and went to deal with the receptionist.  I heard them talking about her being the mother's power of attorney while the mother looked around in sort of a daze.

The daughter seemed attentive to her mother's needs and the two seemed to get on well; but I also sensed maybe some weariness and impatience from the daughter and a bit of annoyance from the mother that the daughter was babying her.  I felt such empathy for both women.  I know the situation well and it brought back memories of my own relationship with my mom.

After my procedure, Jonah and I went and ate at Sweet Tomatoes and I saw yet another elderly mother with her caretaker daughter, and I felt maybe Mom was just reminding me that she's still around.

When I went back for my procedure, I was instructed to remove all my clothes and don a hospital gown and booties.  Then I was asked to lie on the bed while two nurses dealt with me.  I actually found everyone on the surgical staff to be very personable, compassionate, efficient, and informational.  I had a very good experience.

When one nurse was preparing my IV, she didn't cap it tight enough and blood started spurting out.  That was a new experience for me.  Both nurses (and the anesthesiologist) were so nice and friendly, though.  The IV nurse got it capped pretty quickly.

They were a little behind schedule, so I ended up lying in the bed for about 15 or 20 minutes.  They came in a few times to apologize for the delay, but mostly I was left to myself.  I didn't mind; it gave me time to contemplate and meditate.

As I was lying there some strange thoughts came into my mind.  I thought, very calmly, "What if something went wrong with this relatively simple procedure, and I died?"  While I didn't want to die this young, and even though I knew it would likely be a devastating shock to my friends and family and particularly hard on my husband, I thought to myself, "If I were to die today, I would have few regrets.  I've lived a good life, a life that I am proud of.  I feel prepared to go if today were the day."

The only regrets I would really have would be leaving my poor husband behind; putting my family in a temporary financial bind because I am the trustee over Mom's trust; not finishing transcribing Mom's journals; and leaving Jonah saddled with a mortgage to pay by himself.

I was looking at the ceiling and the curtain and thought, "What if this was the last thing I saw and suddenly found myself in heaven?"  That would be a surprise, but a pleasant one.

Anyway, I just thought it was unusual, but I was happy I felt I could die with a clear conscience, having lived a happy life.

In any case, I did not die.  I was brought into the operation room where the doctor and anesthesiologist asked me a few questions, and then the anesthesiologist shot something into my arm that hurt a little,

and the next thing I know a nurse is telling me to wake up.  I was actually shocked that it had all happened.  It felt like the blink of an eye.  I was also surprised by how coherent and aware I seemed to be.  I remember when I got a a cornea transplant in 1997 that was not the case at all.  I was OUT. OF. IT.  Mom helped me get dressed and I didn't even remember it.  I fell asleep in the car on the way home, and it seemed like forever before I finally felt like myself.

I was told they had pumped air into my colon and so that I would be expelling that same gas.  They needn't have bothered.  I let two huge ones right after I woke up (happily, no one was around).

They gave me some apple juice to drink and gave me some final information.  I felt perfectly fine and was pleasantly surprised that I didn't feel any adverse effects or residual pain or discomfort (aside from some minor flatulence).

Oh...and the doctor said everything looks good in my colon.  So that's nice to know.  Maybe it's just milk that's the problem.  Or...

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