For the benefit of others who may not have had one yet but would like to know what happens during one I thought I would post this to give everyone an idea of what to expect. Disclaimer: Not all exams and experiences may be alike as should be expected.
On Friday, April 1, 2011 I had my first and so far only colonoscopy. The instructions the clinic sent me after I made my appointment with them stated that I should arrive at 10:45 am on the day of my appointment for prep and the procedure would begin at 11:30 am. I also received a list of instructions and a prescription for medication that is supposed to clean me out prior to my appointment. I would just like to say that when I went to get the prescription filled I had no idea what my prescription would contain. So when the pharmacist placed what looked very much like a gallon jug with some powder in it on the counter my first thought was “Uh oh”. The instructions said to mix it with water and put in the refrigerator the morning the day before my appointment and to drink the first half in 8 ounce doses every 10 minutes the night before and the rest in like doses the morning of my appointment. I remember obsessing about where I would be able to find a cup or glass that holds exactly 8 ounces until I remembered that I had a measuring cup in my cabinet so I used that. It came with several flavoring packets with different flavors and my experience was that the one I used with the solution failed to completely mask the nauseous taste of it and I could taste very little of the flavoring. The instructions also stated that I would need to fast the day before and the day of my appointment. I thought the fasting part would be the worst part of it all but it turned out not to be as bad as I’d anticipated.
The day came for my appointment and I arrived at the clinic much earlier than I expected because my brother-in-law called me at 10:06 and told me that he was outside even though we agreed he should pick me up at 10:15 or 10:20 and it’s only about a 10 minute drive to the clinic. When I arrived a nurse went over the paperwork I brought with me and had me sign a form that I received with the paperwork I received in the mail but did not bring with me because I did not think it would be needed. I also left at home a sheet which lists medications the patient is using but since I wasn’t using any I decided to leave it at home as well but it was still needed to inform those that needed to know that I wasn’t using any. She also informed me that the clinic was not affiliated with any hospital and that it was an independent enterprise owned by doctors. I then gave the nurse or receptionist the number to my brother-in-law’s cell phone so they could call him to pick me up after the procedure. She also said that usually a nurse would call in one or two days to see how I was doing but since my colonoscopy was taking place on a Friday I would most likely get the call Monday or Tuesday. After all was said and done and the necessary papers signed a wristband was placed on my right wrist which had with my name, DOB, age, the attending physician’s name, the date of the procedure and an ID number. After this was done she asked me to have a seat in the waiting room and to wait for my name to be called by another nurse.
After a few minutes had passed my name was called and as the nurse took me down a hallway she asked if I was on any medications and I told her I wasn’t taking any and that the only medication I take is the occasional aspirin for headaches. She mentioned that I must be healthy. We came to a door which led into a bathroom and I noticed that it had a chair in it which I thought was a bit odd that there should even be a chair in here. She told me to have a seat which I did and she proceeded to explain about what was going to happen. She also mentioned that after the procedure I would be expected to release gas because she said that during the exam air would be introduced into my colon so the Dr. could get a better look during his exam and that they would want it back and so I was to just go ahead and let her rip. I thought this was funny when she said this as I’m sure she intended it to be. She also said that there was nothing wrong with my doing this since it would be expected of me and since it’s injected after I cleaned myself as part of my at home prep it would be odorless. Then she handed me a gown from a cupboard that I hadn’t noticed before and said to take everything off except for my socks and put the gown on and that I should put my clothes in a locker which was also in the bathroom. The locker had a key with a band on it which the nurse said that I could attach to my wrist that would stay with me the whole time. She then told me that when I’ve finished changing I was to go through the other door and lie down on the bed or cot-I’m not sure what she called it-and that she would prep me for my procedure. I did notice the other door when we entered the bathroom but didn’t think anything of it.
When I was done changing I walked in and noticed that one of the walls wasn’t a wall at all but with what looked like a rather large shower curtain. I lay down on the bed and then she proceeded to cover me with a couple of blankets which felt like she must have been warmed up beforehand because they felt rather nice and warm. She also placed a blood pressure cuff-if that is what it’s called-on my right arm and it would periodically inflate and deflate which was used to keep track of my blood pressure. She also attached a clothespin like device to a finger of my left hand. I don’t recall her saying what its purpose was. She then proceeded to place a rubber strap around my left bicep in order to raise my blood veins so she could put in an IV tube on the back of my left hand but couldn’t because the veins wouldn’t either rise high enough or she couldn’t find any. She then moved up to my arm to the inside of my elbow and she did see a vein there but when she inserted the needle for the IV tube I think it failed to produce any blood so she covered that with a cotton ball and tape and moved to my right arm and after applying the rubber strap there she was able to find a vein on the inside of my elbow. I noticed that there was a TV on the wall that I was pointed at and she later gave me a remote and said I could watch it if I wanted to because I had arrived so early. After a few minutes I asked if I could go to the bathroom which she said I could. I felt rather guilty when I did because of the trouble she went through to cover me with what looked like two blankets and had to remove the other things as well. When I returned she hooked me back up to everything and left.
After about a few minutes of trying to find something to watch on TV another nurse-she may have been a technician of some kind-appeared and introduced herself as Julie and I don’t remember what all that was said but I do remember she was one of the people that prepped me for the procedure which she was involved in as well. She stayed behind and to the right of me on the counter on which she was writing something in a folder so I had to look behind me to see her. After another number of minutes the doctor who was to perform the colonoscopy appeared with my nurse and talked to me about the procedure and asked me if I had had any surgeries at all and I believe he asked if I had been under sedation or anesthesia before to which I answered in the negative. I believe this left everyone with the impression that this is the closest I have been to being hospitalized or had any type of medical procedure performed on me before and everyone seemed a bit surprised by this given my age. Since I’ve never been hospitalized before this was indeed the closest I had ever come to it and they were correct in thinking so. He also informed me as to the mortality rate was for colonoscopies due to one reason or another and I appreciated his being upfront with me about this possibility and I remember thinking that the number he gave sounded a bit high so when he was finished talking the only thing I told him was “OK”. He asked if anyone else in my family had a colonoscopy and I told him I don’t know and that if they did it was never discussed. For some reason everyone got a chuckle out of this.
After the visit with the doctor was over he left as did everyone else and after a few more minutes the nurse technician returned and wheeled my bed to the room where the procedure was to be performed. An amusing incident occurred when as my bed was placed over a lift and as one attendant was in the process of pumping up the lift to raise my bed higher Julie was trying to attach an oxygen line to my nose which was proving difficult because of the pumping. The girls giggled or laughed about this and I chuckled about it as well and the other attendant stopped long enough until Julie was able to hook me up to the oxygen and when she did then the pumping recommenced. When the bed reached the desired height Julie asked me to lie on my left side which I did and then after a bit she said she was going to add something to the IV in my arm and I think she said it would make me drowsy or sleep. I don’t know exactly what she said if that but I do know that in less than a minute I was out!
The next thing I remember is that something jolted the bed probably because it hit something as it was being returned to my room because as I was slowly regained consciousness and after I was able to open my eyes the first thing I looked at was a clock which read 12:51 pm and then I remembered that I was back in the prep room where I had started. As consciousness slowly returned the nurse would every so often ask me a question and I would answer. I believe that this was done so she could gage my level of consciousness. I also noticed that the blood pressure cuff and the clothespin were no longer attached to me and that the needle for the IV had been removed and was replaced by a cotton ball with tape to act as a bandage. When I had recovered enough she told me to go ahead and release some gas and when I had trouble doing so she raised my knees up with my feet flat on the bed in order to help expedite the matter. I remember having difficulty fulfilling her request and could only manage two short releases.
As I was trying to accomplish this the nurse went into the bathroom where she moved the chair next to the clothes locker and on the other side of the door and placed a towel over the chair. When the nurse thought I had recovered enough from the effects of the sedation she then took the key off my wrist and unlocked the locker. She then helped me get out of the bed and as I stood up she in one smooth motion and with one hand closed the robe behind me and placed that arm around me which kept it closed as she walked me to the chair in the bathroom. The way she closed the robe was done so well led me to believe that she has done this many times before. After the procedure whenever I walked anywhere she either had a good hold of my arm or had her arm around me to steady me as I was walking. After she walked me to the chair and had me sit down she then told me that when I’m getting myself dressed I should be careful when putting my pants on because I may lose my balance doing so. I therefore decided I should try and get dressed as much as possible while sitting down. When I told her I understood I noticed that as she left she left the door open a few inches. This was done so she could look in to check on how I was doing and to see if I was having any problems. She asked a couple of times as to how I was doing.
After I finished dressing she led me to another room in which she said the doctor would speak with me about the results of the procedure and answer any questions that I may have. She said that since I was still under the residual effects of the sedation I most likely would not remember what the doctor said and asked if I would like my brother-in-law present when the doctor spoke with me and I remember saying no. She then left and after a number of minutes had passed and I felt like dozing off a couple of times the doctor entered and proceeded to tell me what went on and what he found. From what I could remember it all sounded like he found nothing out of the ordinary and that I was good for another 10 years which I guessed is the usual span of time between colonoscopies for those with healthy large intestines. During his talk he presented me with papers which on one side had instructions which read that due to the lingering effects of the sedation I should not attempt to drive, return to work, operate heave machinery or anything of the kind for at least 12 hours and that I could resume my normal diet after I returned home. On the reverse side were snapshots of areas of interest in my large intestine which numbered five in all. The other sheet was the sheet one used to indicate what medications one was taking but since I wasn’t taking any medication it was left mostly blank except for the doctor’s, the nurse’s and admitting nurse’s signatures as well as a copy of the tag that was on my wristband. I thanked the doctor and he left and the nurse returned shortly thereafter.
She then led me down a corridor and back to the waiting room which we walked through and as I thought we were heading towards the stairs she told me we were going to take the elevator which was next to the stairs which I hadn’t noticed before. For a few seconds I actually thought we were going to try to negotiate the stairs since they were the ones I had to take when I came down them to where the clinic was. When we reached the lobby neither of us saw my so the nurse had me sit in a chair and went back to the clinic to call him. When she returned my ride showed up and as she was helping me into the truck my brother-in-law asked me if I was ready to go to a restaurant and eat something to which I responded no and the nurse said no as well! Apparently she did not think this was a good idea either. I reached over to shake her hand but she must have been in a hurry to get back because I was only able to shake her left hand as she was leaving. A bit awkward that. I would like to finish by saying that the attention I received and the professionalism of everyone involved was extraordinary and if I was asked to give a rating on a scale of 1 to 10 I do not think I would be exaggerating if I would say 15. All in all I would like to say it was not as bad an experience as I expected and the care I received made it a rather positive experience altogether.