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Colonoscopy’s Unexpected Gift

Posted Aug 24 2008 6:37pm

My doctor says “You are at the age where you need to be concerned about your colon care. You need to have a colonoscopy.” I grimace. “If the first colonoscopy is clear, then you won’t have to have another one for 10 years when you are 68,” she says reassuringly. “With Parkinson’s, I don’t expect to be around in 10 years,” I state matter-of-factly. This time, she grimaces.

By the time I return home, the colonoscopy office left a voice mail indicating they were eager to schedule the procedure. I’m thinking they must not have many patients who willingly call for an appointment. I delay returning the call. The scheduler is persistent and calls me again, even though I did not return her first call.

The scheduler suggests several dates, and my responses are: “Nope, I’ll be in New York City.” “No, that date won’t work as I have a dance performance.” “No, I’m flying to Kansas City for my twin nephews’ high school graduation.” Exasperated, she says, “OK, you suggest some convenient dates.” I come up with the Tuesday after Mother’s Day.

Everyone who has had a colonoscopy tells me the same thing. “It doesn’t hurt. You’re knocked out. Don’t worry about it.” Finally, the truth comes out about the preparations being the most difficult part of the entire procedure. The medical staff also reassures me that “the patients say that the prep is the most difficult part of the procedure,” as the staff knows better than getting anywhere near a colonoscope.

I was scared of the preparation, more than the procedure itself. For the procedure on Tuesday, the preparation to get your system cleaned out is the following:

• Last meal of breakfast on Monday with no real food until lunch on Tuesday

• No medication from noon on Monday otherwise the meds might clog the colonoscope

• Only clear liquids (and this does not include California Chardonnay) from noon on Monday until 6 AM on Tuesday

• No liquids of any kind after 6 AM on Tuesday

• At 6 PM on Monday, begin downing at the rate of one glass every 10 minutes, nine glasses filled with 8-ounces of an atomic-powered laxative; totaling 72 ounces

• Set the alarm for 4 AM on Tuesday and drink four more 8-ounce glasses, totaling 32 ounces, before 6 AM

• Bowel movements start about an hour after the first glass and last for 6-8 hours

• You may feel bloated, chilled or nauseated.

• “If you start vomiting, stop drinking the solution for 30 minutes then restart

Warnings that if you don’t comply with any of the above, then the procedure may need to be rescheduled!

Being a compliant patient, I follow all the above. In fact, it is noted in my chart that “the quality of the prep was excellent.” Being compliant results in me feeling like I have food poisoning, I am dehydrated, and I get very little sleep that night. Also without Parkinson’s meds for nearly 24 hours, I am slow and shaky.

I wake at 4 AM on Tuesday to discover that it’s a cold rainy day in metro Denver. It’s a good day to stay inside and have a colonoscopy, I tell myself. I discover that Cindy, the Medtronic representative for deep brain stimulation, is at the procedure to zero out the stimulator before the colonoscopy and then turn it back to the correct settings afterward. Cindy arrives at the hospital right on time at 7:30 AM after driving 50 miles in rush-hour traffic on rain-soaked freeways.

Right before I change into the hospital night gown for the procedure, Cindy turns off the stimulator by putting the control device on top of my chest. The pre-op staff look inquisitive, and we hear mumblings of "what are they doing?". We say that I have an implanted deep brain stimulator for Parkinson’s Disease, that it’s like a pacemaker to the brain. They scratch their heads as though we are speaking a foreign language.

The colonscopy procedure itself goes "without incident" I am told. Nobody wants an incident.

I am in a sedated fog when Cindy returns after the procedure to turn on the stimulator to the same settings of my last programming session of March 4. I think these settings are close to optimal for me right now.

When I visited New York a couple of weeks ago, the security checks must have inadvertently triggered a change in the settings. Since New York, my voice has been devastated (see Giving a Voice to Parkinson's ).

However, when I am discharged from the hospital after the colonoscopy, I notice that my former strong voice returns. With a return to the settings of March 4, getting my voice back is colonoscopy’s unexpected gift.

By the way, the results of the colonoscopy indicated no polyps and no cancer. Yipee!!

Related Link:

Colon Test Not Quite Fantanstic Voyage by Linwood Barclay

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