| went for
My First Colonoscopy™ because
I’m at that age where medical science
is now eager to poke and probe me like
a prospector looking for the mother lode
the process begins days in advance with
dietary restrictions and then a 30-hour
fast and prescription laxative cleanse
they mail you a one-gallon plastic jug
with a little bit of GaviLyte powder in
the bottom, plus an additional lemon
flavoring packet stuck to the outside
because i guess some people prefer to
choke down the goo plain? you fill the
jug with water and pound half of it the
night before, the other half in the
morning. the effect was fast-acting
and pretty dramatic. i figured the
best way to weather the wringing-out
was to take a long bath, which was
interrupted by 10 wet-assed squats
upon the throne. i spent the first part
of the fast daydreaming about food
but after the first purge i wasn’t
hungry and was feeling clear and light
and slept pretty well and was relieved to
wake up among sheets still clean and dry.
skipped the usual coffee, finished off
the mixture and took another slow bath,
this time with only three side trips,
after the last of which nothing was left.
my appointment was for 2:30 and the
instructions specified i was to bring
an escort because post-procedure i’d be
out of my head from sedatives and such,
so sarah and i walked the two blocks to
South building of the kaiser-permanente
capitol hill campus. how convenient to
live so close to a hospital when it’s time
to have a long snaky object slithered up
your butt. we were subject to an intense
screening at the main entrance—“have you
been coughing or had a fever today?”
when we said no they stuck green dots to us
and we proceeded to the second floor where
i was horrified by the disclosure agreement
that warned this procedure might result in
anything from brain damage to heart attack
to paralysis to death. barbara ehrenreich
wrote a book on this topic but since
haven’t read it yet i signed my life away
right there in waiting area 2B—or not to be?
everything was punctual and efficient and
i kept my pink socks and eyeglasses on as
i changed into a skimpy gown and lied down
on the gurney, feet overhanging the end. one
size does not fit all, neither gown nor gurney
nor blanket. i was sticking out all over but that
wouldn't matter since i'd soon have my hairy ass
bared to two young women and a joke-telling
in a harshly lit room replete with camera, latex,
and lube. it could have been a porn shoot.
the blankets were
toasty from the dryer
and i felt quite relaxed
though typically i have
no great love of clinical
settings, but i’ve had a little
more practice than usual in the
past year between dentist, ruptured
ear drum, and a tweaked neck. a nurse
prepped me with an IV drip and a bunch of
sensors for vital signs. she was incanting a litany
of disclaimers about the anesthetic when i butt in to
ask if i had to take it. she was surprised but
not everybody does, so i opted out. if it got really
they could add it to the bag any time. i’m scared of
words like fentanyl and warnings not to sign
anything or make
any major life decisions for 24 hours. anal
one thing, messing with my central nervous system
is another. don't get me wrong--i enjoy
with psychoactive inputs, but only on my own
terms. i just don't get high on relinquishing
lucidity in a clinical setting. anyway,
how bad could it be?
they’d let me keep my camera
as i took that classic supine ride
down hospital corridor to procedure room
and greeted aforementioned laughing youngsters.
i could see how being half knocked-out might make
the situation less embarrassing but i was too
wanted to enjoy the ride eyes wide open.
(do the amnesia-inducing drugs
they typically administer address social
awkwardness more than physical pain?)
i rolled over on my left side, oxygen clip pinching
septum, blood pressure cuff squeezes bicep, finger
an alligator clip, IV drip to elbow crook,
to arms and chest. they confirmed they had the right
guy with the call and response cadence of a cockpit flightcheck,
astronauts perched atop their rockets,
immersed in space age technology,
i was feeling the 21st century in
my bones and, soon, elsewhere.
they had me.
the image on the big bright flat screen facing me
and lurched dizzily as the doctor readied for the
i dreaded witnessing a slow approach to my unlovely
but he swiftly zeroed in on his target, quick
cheeks then—BOOM!—fantastic voyage as my insides
leapt to life on the screen, vivid and glistening,
and sleek, suddenly exposed for all to see.
i laughed in wonder as the scope began its journey
up my large intestine. it was much cleaner and
than i expected. they puff the colon full of air to
navigate and inspect the pathway--3 inch diameter!--
and dealing with that pressure was the hardest part.
it took several minutes getting over the urge to
you have to remember there's nothing there but what
the team was sticking, blowing, and squirting in.
those working the business end of the rig have a
(JK, they complimented me on how well i'd cleaned
the weirdest part was feeling the tube squirming and
tight corners up inside my guts which the doctor
to pinocchio after i'd brought up
the chestbuster in Alien.
the discomfort became acute in the hairpin curves
external manipulation was needed to keep it all
the right direction, but i just breathed with it and
“your colon just keeps going! how tall are you?"
“Six three or so. i guess it all scales up, huh?”
we finally reached the tail end of my small
which is where today’s tour ended, but soon we'd
the journey for the actual inspection, exit through
shop with acute rectum scrutiny.
the doc showed me my appendix on the screen so i
if we could look for the penny i swallowed in 1973.
“did you really?” but he didn’t probe further. he
a blue light at times that looked like lightning in
pink cavern and i lamented the personal camera ban
because it turns out my guts would make for cool
abstract visuals to project behind a band.
(oh well, i figured, we’re all the same
it must be out
there, but later i learned
good colonoscopy footage is
hard to find.)
almost backtracked all the way out without finding
any polyps and doc said if there were none i
have to come back for another ten years, but then
was one rather benign little bugger, a potential pet
which he snipped out as i watched, not feeling a
because the colon is devoid of nerve endings.
precious made its way into a jar for lab testing.
even before they rolled me in
i overhead a patient behind adjacent curtain in prep
room saying her father called himself a polyp
because every time he went in they harvested
crop, so i’m hoping just one is not too
big a deal.
what would have made the experience even niftier
would have been one of those convex back-up mirrors
you see on delivery trucks—i could vividly see what
was going on inside of me but not who or what was
knocking at my back door. as something of a tool
i wanted to check the grip and ergonomics of their
half an hour after it started, the versatile snake
slithered back out. we were all cheerful and
over little silly comments and the doctor asked if
do it again without drugs. i didn’t hesitate: “yes!”
he admitted he’d never undergone the procedure
i wonder if when his time comes, now he’ll take it
i was pretty amazed by the technology and quality of
but i still think the default tendency to prescribe
way out of even the slightest discomfort is a
especially in this case, i wanted to be remember it,
plus not being numbed out provided more accurate
feedback for the doctor, who was sensitive enough
to notice when my foot tensed up in a pain response
and he'd adjust his approach. so maybe it was good
the blankets were too short. if it had been poker,
my tensed foot was the tell.
another benefit of declining the drugs
was i didn’t have to linger in recovery.
i got dressed. they gave me a can of cranberry.
My First Colonoscopy™ gets two thumbs up.
but as much fun as it was,
it’s always a relief to walk
away from a hospital,
a prisoner set free,