Even though patients leave doctors’ offices fully informed regarding same-day-surgery procedures, a trip through the Pre-Admission Testing Department is often advisable. Patients can become so saturated with new information that they’re unable to absorb it all. Poorly prepared, they can cause delays in schedules that are expensive as well as annoying to all involved. It happens to patients of all ages but I recall one sweet old man who thought he was doing everything right. Expecting to have a colonoscopy, he had concerns about all the liquid he would have to drink the preceding day. Somewhere in there, he lost an important detail but was so pleased that he’d had no problem drinking a couple quarts of liquid. He started about four days before he was scheduled, drinking a little each day until he finished it.
Planning for retirement, my last UVMC position was once a week in Pre-Admission Testing, interviewing and teaching those who would be our patients. Colonoscopies are an excellent diagnostic tool for discovering cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions. At age 72, my dad died from cancer that metastasized from the lower left colon to every major organ in his body. He was a stroke survivor, functioning from a wheelchair and never thinking that he wouldn’t fully recover. He used to ask me why his back hurt so badly and my standard answer was, “Daddy, if I had to sit in a wheelchair all day, my back would hurt, too.” I don’t feel guilty for that anymore. We just didn’t know it was already too late. For that reason alone, it made sense to go through the process every 3 to 5 years, thinking of the family history I was passing on to my children. And I did, for awhile.
I worked very hard to convince every patient that there was no pain involved in the procedure, their privacy would be respected, and they’d be cared for by highly skilled medical personnel, most of whom had willingly subjected themselves to the scope. We’d all lived through it! Following that rehearsed performance, I got around to the part they had to do for themselves, the hard part: The Pre-Procedure-Bowel-Emptying -Process. I shared a couple little hints, like using an eight ounce cup, making the liquid look like a smaller amount than when poured into a glass. It’s really not possible to trick yourself but I thought it helped me. I divided the whole amount into two pitchers so I’d know when I was halfway through; that helped a little, too. If your home has one bathroom, make it clear that you have priority. Send the family to a motel if necessary. Then the predictable question, “Why do I have to drink all of it if I think I’m empty?” The body doesn’t have an echo system; there’s no breeze that whistles through. You can’t judge by the color of the liquid return. If you can’t see through “it,” neither can the doctor. If you make a bad guess, the whole procedure would have to be repeated. That’s the one that gave me the strength to drink it down until it was gone.
By the time I got to the hospital, I was hollow, dead tired, shivering-cold, and feeling like a lost child. Nurses wrapped me in soft warm blankets. The attention was SO welcome. The scope itself was the easiest part of the entire experience. The sedation was painless. I was there one minute, gone the next, returned faster than an eyewink, wide awake, rested, and ready to go home. A piece of cake. (Forgive the inappropriate comparison.) And the good news? A polyp was removed, no sign of cancer, and because of my old age — I never have to do that again.
An update on my stolen identity, I received a statement from a California tax company for preparing taxes. It was addressed to Doris …. and Shirley …..different last names, mailed to my address, our home for 57 years and one month. We talked with the tax representative, convinced them Doris and Shirley have never lived here, and we won’t pay their bill. We’re waiting to see what the girls will do next.
Carolyn Stevens is a resident of Piqua. She may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or snail mail at
719 Park Ave., Piqua, OH 45356.