Today I finished my first colonoscopy and upper endoscopy experience. I say finished, because it began about 48 hours ago when I had my last meal before my procedures. I thought I’d write a post about what I was expecting and what I actually went through, contrasting the differences. If you are preparing for your first colonoscopy or are hesitant to get one, I hope this post helps you make the right informed decision. Although I am an experienced EMT, this post is about my personal experiences and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.
The First Night
I can only express first night expectations in one word, “dread”. I was dreading feeling hungry, I was dreading drinking an entire jug of prep, and I was dreading being up all night in the bathroom the next night. I was trying to think of what supplies I needed so I wouldn’t need to leave the house, clear liquids and moist personal wipes.
The first night was like any normal night. I ate my last meal and had a snack before I went to bed. I bought some moist personal wipes, lots of chicken broth and Sprite Zero. As a diabetic, it was important to me to manage my sugar as effectively as possible while I was fasting. I knew that I could have problems with my metformin being effective if I already had stomach issues from the the prep drink. I was dreading the next day.
Day 1: Prep Day
I woke up the morning of prep day and realized it this was happening. I was worried I would have a blood sugar drop, I was worried about being hangry at work and really dreading drinking a large jug of colon prep.
I woke up and mixed the jug of colon prep with water and placed it in the refrigerator for that evening, just as I was instructed to. I took my morning medication, but it quickly hit me that I couldn’t eat breakfast. I went to work as usual, and drank my first cup of chicken broth. I was less than happy.
By noon, I was not feeling well. I was hangry, my stomach was growling and I couldn’t feed it. I drank another cup of broth and decided to go home early. I hadn’t slept well the night before because of the dread, so I was hoping to sleep through part of the day. After I got home, I took a very long nap. When I woke up, I felt better. I was hungry, but the my hangryness had passed. It was time for me to take my first glass of prep. It was bad, but not horrible. I followed it up with some chicken broth.
Over the next 6 hours, I drank about 50% of the prep, followed by a cup of chicken broth. As the evening went on, I found I hated the taste more and more. I kept trimming down the size of the glasses I had to drink and kept chugging it. Within a couple of hours, the trip to the bathroom started. I kept drinking it, chicken broth and then finally switched over to Sprite Zero around midnight. About this time, my trips to the bathroom became more and more “clear”. This will be important later. Shortly after that, I went to bed. I was really worried about having an accident, but I was so tired and needed some sleep. I ended up getting up twice to go to the restroom, once after lying down for about an hour and once around 5am. Neither time too very long and then I was ready to lay back down.
Day 2: The Big Day
I was really dreading the actual procedures. I always dread anesthesia. I was worried about not having a clean enough colon. I was even worried about having an “accident” on the way to or during the actual colonoscopy. I made it this far, I didn’t want to not finish and put it behind me.
By this point, my hunger had mostly passed. I won’t lie, I was still looking forward to a good filling meal afterwards. I drank some another larger glass of prep. I found that it went down easier this morning, maybe because my body needed a short break. I was still pretty “clear” in the bathroom department, but I did want to have a clean colon. If you have fecal matter in the colon when they start, chances are that they can’t continue and you’ll have to do the whole thing over and pay for a second colonoscopy.
By the mid morning, I had finished about 75% of the prep. I was completely clear when I went to bathroom. I assumed that I was clean and didn’t need to drink the rest of the prep. It doesn’t wear off immediately, so I kept going urgently for a couple of more hours. By 11:00, it was time for me to stop eating for drinking anything. Shortly after noon, we left for the office.
The facility that I went to really was efficient. They were constantly bringing people to the back, preparing them, doing the procedures and then releasing them after a short recovery. I was very nervous, I hate anesthesia.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, I made it to this point and I just wanted it over. I was ready to eat something and put it far behind me.
Once I arrived, they had me change into a hospital gown. Then the doctor and nurse anesthetist both came by to ask if I have any questions and ask me a couple of medical history questions themselves. They placed a small IV in my arm and wheeled me into a small room. They checked again if I had any questions and then pulled out a large syringe with a milky white substance in it, the propofol. They told me I would quickly fall asleep and wake up soon with no memory of the procedure, I wouldn’t be groggy and it would all be over. They placed a bite block in my mouth so they could so the upper endoscopy and asked me to lay on my side.
The nurse anesthetist inserted the syringe into my IV and began to push the drug. I don’t remember feeling woozy, like I was passing out or even that I was going to sleep. It just happened, painlessly and naturally.
I woke up about 45 minutes later in recovery. Immediately after I was awake enough to remember anything, I felt OK. I wasn’t nauseous or groggy, just a little unsteady. The nurse brought me a Diet Coke, checked my blood pressure lying down and sitting up and asked if I felt like getting dressed. About 10 minutes later I was headed out the door and to a restaurant for a mild and sensible, but tasty meal.
They found a very small polyp and signs of reflux, overall nothing major.
It’s a scientific fact that colonoscopies save lives. They find and remove polyps before they have a chance to become dangerous. While I wouldn’t want to go through this on a monthly basis, I’m comfortable saying I don’t dread the next one in 5 to 10 years. The worst part was the dread, followed by the salty colon prep mix. The best parts were the propofol and it’s lack of side effects, the wonderful staff that treated me and the good outcome I had in the end. The rest I don’t remember!