Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Colonoscopy 101: It's cool to watch yourself on camera!

 This is inside a healthy colon like mine today, except mine is a slightly more greyish color, because there's a lot more miles on it than you younger people have on yours. "And how do you know?" you ask. Because: when the nurse wheeled my bed into the room, and prepared to give me the sedative in the arm I asked, "Do we really need this?" And she said, "It's not essential if you'd like to try it without." And just then Dr. Ho came in, so I asked him "Can I watch?" And he said, "Certainly! Would you like to try it with just a little sedation, or possibly none at all? It's up to you."

The nurse said, "This sedation works very quickly, so if you start without it, and then decide you want some, we can stop for a minute, and then continue." And I said, "Let's try it without any, so I'll be alert, and can ask stupid questions, may I?" And she said, "Absolutely! and I'm right here, if you change your mind."

Then Dr. Ho said, "I'm ready now, whenever you are." And I said, " Whenever you wish, Doctor." And in it went. I asked, "Should I bear down a little to help it?" And he said, "That's not usually necessary, and it shouldn't hurt, except maybe at the sharpest bends. I give a puff of air at those spots to enlarge the colon for easier navigation." And as he's talking, the camera is advancing further and further, and I'm getting the impression that we're in a big underground tunnel, much like being underground in a mine, except the walls are clean and smooth, with little blood vessels here and there, and there's no narrow-gauge railway tracks along the floor of it.

We come to a spot where there are two tunnels; one on the right, which our light reveals to be a blind end, and the other one on the left is an active one. This, as the Doctor explains, is where the old colostomy is located, and that blind tunnel is the closed-off one which once led to the colostomy bag on the outside. The one on the left, in which we see no ending, is the active colon we are examining. Around corners, past wrinkly folded spots, and suddenly we come to a spot where our large tunnel ends at a much smaller one, and Doctor Ho says, "That's it! We're done!" And I asked "What do you mean 'we're done'? I was just getting into this..." And he said, "You've done very well, and as you probably saw, there's nothing here that needs fixing. It looks just fine, and I'm all finished, as soon as I remove the camera." He did that, and I thanked him for the guided tour.

Out in the recovery area, waiting to have my IV connection removed, and the BP cuff taken off, the nurse came by to say "You surprised us today by not using the sedation. People half your age wouldn't dream of attempting this without the sedation, even though, as you know now, there's really not that much to it. And we're impressed." I said, "Thank you, Dear, and may I have my juice and cookies now please?" She said, "Yes, you certainly may! Apple or Cranberry?" I chose Cranberry, and it was absolutely delicious, after starving for a couple of days. We agreed, the anticipation was much worse than the event by far.

This is a typical room arrangement for the procedure. The monitor for the camera display, shown on the wall beyond the bed, displays vital signs along its left edge, and the camera's view in the larger screen. Dr. Ho's camera is using a large 30-inch flatscreen, and when the procedure starts, it's like we're entering a really large culvert or a small tunnel. It's really big!

During the prep for all that, while another nurse was getting me ready and taking my vitals, she was reading my Oxygen level from a panel on the wall behind my bed. I asked "How is it this morning?" She said, "It's 93, why?" And I said, "Just checking yours against mine, Dear. Mine said 93 just before I left to come over here, so this confirms that my meter is just as accurate as yours, and thank you for helping me check that."

It's been an interesting day!


  1. Ray, ever hear the expression TMI (Too Much Information)?

    The details of a colonoscopy might one of those area this expression might fit.

  2. Hi, Tom -

    Yes, I've heard that expression, and in fact, I've got the recording
    done by The Police, called appropriately "Too Much Information".

    But if I may be forgiven for saying so, this is an event that some of
    us never get to experience, and others will only do it once, most likely,
    unless they have serious problems.

    The point I didn't make very well is that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
    The procedure isn't totally painless, but very nearly so,
    because there are no nerve endings to speak of in the colon itself.
    So the only discomfort felt is at the sharpest bends, where the doctor
    may have a little difficulty navigating around it. But even then he can
    push a button and inject a puff of air in there to inflate it momentarily,
    thus allowing easier passage.

    I'm not saying it's a delightful experience, and I'm not recommending
    that we sell tickets, but it's definitely not as terrifying as most of us
    assume beforehand. It's quite survivable, and I'm living proof!

  3. Ray, you're absolutely correct. The only uncomfortable part for me (every 5 years) is the prep work to empty that baby out.. UGH!!

    I don't feel anything because they put me out or should I say into dream land.. :-)

  4. Hi, Tom -

    Maybe just once, you should try "going commando" and staying awake,
    so you can see for yourself what you really do look like in there.

    You might be surprised at how easily the whole thing is done,
    and how little reason we had for being so "up tight" about it.
    Modern technology really is wonderful, and in the skilled hands
    of a Gastroenterologist like Dr. Ho, you're in even better hands
    than you would be with "Allstate", and the doctor himself will be
    only too happy to prove that to you.