Post-op summary

smileyface.jpgWell, it’s over. I never got the opportunity to post more updates during the prep itself, but that’s largely because there wasn’t a lot to report. Here’s the quick rundown:

The first round of prep went rather easily. As my earlier post shows, I thought it was going almost too easily, actually: no cramps, nausea, or butt soreness. It was suggested to me that the prep might have been relatively easy-going for me because in general I eat a pretty good diet, low in processed foods and pretty high in fiber. So it wasn’t like I had to clean out months of colonic accretion from McDonald’s, etc. I took the dose of stuff at 4pm, action began at 5pm, the first major round of purging was done by 6:30 or so, and I had a few more (much briefer) trips to the loo between 6:30 and 8:00 or 8:15. By 9:00 I was ready for bed, and slept without incident until 4am.

At 4am I got up and took the second dose of purgative. I had been told by my doc’s office manager and someone at the GI lab at the hospital that I could wait until 5am and get a little more sleep, but I thought it would be wise to err on the side of extra time. I’m glad I did. After heading back to bed and enjoying some nice stomach-gurgling, I woke up around 6:30am for the second round of purging.

That second round was a lot less intense than the first round (no doubt because there was a lot less to purge in the ol’ GI tract, and also because the second dose of purgative in the EZ-Prep kit is only 1 oz. rather than 1.5 oz.). But I was heading back to the john until about 9:30 or so. Since I had to be at the hospital at 10:15, I was a bit concerned that I’d need to make an emergency stop somewhere along the way to use the bathroom, but that didn’t prove to be the case. (But that’s why I’m glad I got up at 4am to take the second dose; I suspect that if I’d waited until 5:00, things might have been dodgy on the way to the hospital.)

Once at the hospital, everything went smoothly. They hooked me up to my IV, which took a few tries because the dehydration makes it harder to land a vein. After trying unsuccessfully to get one going on top of my hand, the nurse had to settled for the inside of the elbow. (That was fine with me, actually; it’s a lot less painful there than on top of the hand.) I lay in my bed, feeling sleepy and hungry and trying to read a book (it was difficult to focus). The doc was running about half an hour behind schedule because earlier procedures had gone longer than expected), but it wasn’t too bad. I did get to enjoy the sounds of the previous patient farting like crazy after his return to the room. I can only hope that I was able to serenade the person after me as tunefully and majestically as he did me.

Then they wheeled me into the room where they do the procedure. The nurses were really pleasant, and made some nice chit-chat while I lay there. They explained the procedure to me (which I already knew about, of course, from reading all about it on the internet), then put the oxygen thingie into my nostrils. The doc came in and explained the potential complications (“perforated colon” is a bit of a troubling thing to hear in that situation, but what can you do?). Then the nurse said she was going to start the drugs.

I was remarkably unstressed about the whole thing, perhaps because I’d had the upper endoscopy a few months back and knew that the drugs were the same. Sure enough, I floated into dreamland pretty quickly. I actually have a vague recollection of the procedure. There was no discomfort at all, just a weird sensation of something wet-feeling going in and out of my butt. (It was really similar to the wet feeling that accompanies the prep process.) As I say, not at all uncomfortable, just curious. I definitely had no sense of time, though, and I have no idea how long he rooted around.

Before I knew it, I was back in the waiting/recovery room. I came to much quicker than I thought I would, sooner, it seemed, than I did after the upper endoscopy. The nurse came in and said that they’d found nothing other than a couple of small internal hemorrhoids: no polyps, no signs of cancer, nothing. Great news! She gave me some apple juice and a package of graham crackers, and I sat there contentedly munching on them and enjoying the post-procedure drug-induced grooviness.

Then the nurse came back and took out my IV and said I could get dressed. I did so (though in that state it took me three tries to get my t-shirt on correctly), then went out in the hall and drowsily listened to the post-procedure instructions, which are pretty simple:

  • don’t go back to work or try to do anything of consequence for the rest of the day
  • go easy on your stomach: light, soft foods for the first few meals
  • no popcorn or nuts for two days (how bizarre is that?)
  • call the doctor if you’re in pain, have a fever, or are pooping bright red blood. (You’d think that one would be a no-brainer even without the instructions.)

Then my lovely wife drove me home and made me a sandwich, which I ate along with some soup and a glass of ginger ale. I felt a wee bit queasy after eating, but only barely. Then, man oh man, did I crash hard! I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and ended up sleeping from 2 to 5pm. Deep, deep sleep, too. Then I got up and ate a yogurt and drank some Gatorade. We took the dog to the park, which was nice because I finally got some fresh air. I had a few slices of Greek pizza for dinner, along with more ginger ale, and was in bed by 10pm.

This morning I woke up starving. Some oatmeal and an English muffin later, and I feel fine, though the caffeine in the coffee is hitting me much harder than it usually does, presumably because I’ve got much less in my stomach than normal.

All in all, I’m feeling great!

So, in sum, if you’ve got a colonoscopy coming up, here is my take-home message:

  • Don’t believe the horror stories. Surely those who have had them are serious, and they happen, but my sense is that you hear about the terrible situations much more frequently than you hear about the mundane, uneventful ones.
  • Eat well (high-fiber, low-processed foods) for the week or ten days leading up to the purge; it’ll make things a whole lot easier coming out.
  • Baby wipes are, in fact, the key to comfort during the prep—everyone was right.
  • Because most of the things you’re allowed to drink during the prep are sweet (Jello, soda, Popsicles, Gatorade, etc.), make sure to buy a box or can of low-fat, low-sodium chicken or beef broth to intersperse with the other clear fluids. It’s almost like having food, and the saltiness and warmth are a really welcome change from the sweet and cold of the other things you can consume.
  • While it’s true that the prep is the worst part of the whole experience, it’s actually not that bad. I recommend the Fleet EZ-Prep method: it’s easy to get (and keep) down, and didn’t cause me any trauma.
  • Don’t think for a second that you’ll do anything productive the afternoon after the procedure. Count on napping, or at the very least lying on the couch and watching TV.

Thus concludes my colonoscopy and, barring any new insights or reports, my colonoscopy blog. To those of you who will be undergoing to procedure for the first time, take heart! The dread is ten times worse than the prep or the procedure will be. I’m not looking forward eagerly to my next one (in luck, till I’m 50, eighteen years from now), but I know that when the time comes I won’t worry about it at all.

Bon courage!

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