Saturday, March 06, 2010

Clean Bill Of Health

The colonoscopy went very well. The doctor said everything was normal and that he found no polyps. I'm very relieved given that my grandfather died young from colon cancer. Now that it's "behind" me, I'll tell you how it all went down here in France.

The clouds clearing out last Sunday after the storm passed over.

The preparation, as many of you told me, was worse than the actual procedure. Even so, the only part that was uncomfortable was the constant running back and forth to the toilet. I took two small bottles of something called Fleet (the enema people) Phospho-soda mixed in a large glass of water. A little salty, but not too bad. Then I had to drink a lot of water. I did this once the night before and again in the morning, before 8:00 am.

I took my anti-germ shower and got dressed and Ken drove me up to the clinic, about forty-five minutes north of here. By this time, the second worst part of the procedure kicked in: nervous anticipation. I'm kind of squeamish about hospitals and needles and all that. So my heart was in my stomach the whole way.

I checked in and they put me in a double room (even though I had requested the cubicle) with a young guy who was pretty much asleep when we got there. It was about 12:15, and the nurse told me that I was scheduled to go into the bloc (the operating room) at 2:15 pm. Once Ken left, I got into my little (and I mean little) paper gown and got into bed. A nurse came by to take my temperature (normal) and my blood pressure (elevated at 150/90). I told her I was just a little nervous and she said that's normal, and she gave me a tiny little pill to calm me down. I never really felt it kick in. She asked me a battery of questions: was the preparation ok? Yes. Did I take my anti-germ shower? Yes. Am I allergic to any medications? No. Am I wearing any jewelry, hearing aids, or contact lenses? No.

The guy next to me eventually woke up when they brought him some food. He looked at it and told them he couldn't eat it since he was on a fiber-free diet. The woman took it back and brought him some pasta, which he then ate. His doctor came in and they talked a bit. Apparently he has digestive problems that they're trying to figure out and the doctor told him there was nothing wrong in the colon, so the mystery lingers. We talked for a little while after the doctor left. Turned out he's a university student in Orléans, studying music. He plays the trombone. Or the paper clip (they're the same word in French), but I assume it's the former and not the latter.

At the appointed time two orderlies came in to wheel me away. It's a strange feeling, that, watching the ceilings go by as you're being whisked down corridors and through doors.

We arrived at the bloc opératoire and they parked me inside. A woman came by and put a paper hair net on me, then attached little patches for the heart monitor to my chest. She asked me to move onto another bed, then she wrapped the sheets around me and put a new blanket over me. She asked me all same questions that the nurse asked me five minutes before. Prep ok, shower ok, allergies no, and no jewelry, hearing aids, or contacts. Then they wheeled me to the pre-anesthesia station.

There, my anesthetist introduced himself and inserted the catheter into my arm. While doing this he asked all the questions again. Prep, check. Shower, check. Allergies, check. Jewelry, hearing aids, contacts, check. Then they wheeled me into the operating room (I could tell it was the operating room because of that fancy light fixture above my head, and there was my doctor). Monsieur le docteur had a funny smile on his face as he said hello. "You're not too sad about the Canadians beating the Americans in hockey are you" he asked? Not at all, I said. At least I knew that he knew who I was. Then they moved me over to yet another bed. The nurses were busy fitting me with a blood pressure cuff, attaching the electrodes, an oxygen mask, and a pulse monitor.

"So, what do you do here in France," the doctor asked? I'm retired, I said. He and the nurses all said "Wow!" and then "How do you retire at such a young age?" I said I would tell them my secret after I woke up. Chuckles all around.

The anesthetist said they were going to start me off with a little drip at first and then it would be bonne nuit (good night). Then the room started moving and it was kind of funky. This was my favorite part.

Almost instantly, at least from my perspective, I woke up in recovery. A nurse said hello and asked how I felt. Fine, I said. I raised my head and looked around the room a bit. I saw a clock on the wall that said 3:30, but I must have gone back to sleep pretty quickly. I remember being wheeled through the corridors again, then I was back in my room. The trombonist was gone; he was going to be released at 3:00.

It wasn't long before a nurse came in to take my blood pressure again. This time is was 120/70; must have been the effects of the anesthesia. I was quite relaxed. Normally, at my doctor's office, it's 130/80. Next, another person came in with some food. Boy was I hungry! They gave me a plate of grated carrots, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, boiled potato and a hard boiled egg with vinaigrette dressing and two nice slices of ham. There was a small baguette, a hunk of blue cheese, and little custard dessert with sliced almonds on top. And a carafe of water. The plate was china and the glass was a wine glass. Alas, no wine in hospital. I ate it all. While I was finishing, my doctor came in.

He was all smiles and said that everything went well, all was normal, and that he found no polyps. He told be to come back again in five years. Then Ken came in to take me home.

We were there for about twenty minutes before another nurse came in to give me my walking papers and to remove the catheter from my arm. At that point I got dressed and we checked out. I was feeling great until I stood up, then I realized I was still woozy from the anesthesia.

That evening I dozed on the couch in front of the tv, and slept very well through the night. Now we're all back to normal and I'm very happy that it's all over. At least until 2015.


  1. Your recall of such an emotionally stressful event is remarkable! Too bad you have to wait another 5 years for such a fine hospital meal......So glad it is over and all is well. Now you can stop washing so carefully behind the ears!
    Candy (and John)

  2. Welcome home and pleased that your results were OK.

  3. Fascinating read! Glad all went well Walt.

  4. I'm happy to hear the details of an experience that I've had more than a couple of times. The fleet is the easiest prep by far-I've learned to put a straw in the little bottle and chug it down as fast as possible. Then I drink the water. The other preps are much harder.

    I'm glad your grandfather didn't pass that gene to you. I'm hoping my bad gene didn't make it to my children, but they will need to be careful like you.

    I thought I didn't need another check until ten years. Five years would have caught my trouble-maker, so don't forget to return for another good hospital meal;-)

    I didn't mind that Canada won the hockey either. Your doc had a good sense of humor and so do you!

  5. PS Maybe the good shower before your procedure may be an effort to stop hospital infections which seem to be rampant on this side of the pond.

    Surgeons didn't use sterile technique early on. Staph is supposedly everywhere, so it makes good sense to clean the body of the person on the table throughly also. Just a thought.

  6. Several thoughts: First, the clouds in the pic....I love that last line of clouds when the storm is over. Sigh of relief.

    Secondly, I dig the paper hats and wraps. Hehehe.
    And isn't it nice that they put you to sleep, jam something up your arse, and then bring you a nice meal on china to finish the occasion with. Sounds better than a good date.

  7. Glad to hear all went well and it wasn't too traumatic. I have to do the same thing in a little more than a year. I can wait.

  8. Congrats on the clean bill of health! Actually, that hospital meal doesn't sound so bad...

  9. Congratulations--all is well, and a good meal too!

  10. I am glad it went well.
    My one and only colonoscopy made me sick for one month - oh how I lost weight!

  11. candy (and john), yes, I was getting tired of having such clean ears.

    leon, thanks!

    nadege, me too!

    evelyn, I remember Ken's prep 2 years ago seemed much yuckier than the Fleet stuff.

    alewis, funny, it usually goes the other way around, doesn't it?

    mark, from what I've heard, they don't knock you out completely for the procedure in the US. You're just giddy.

    diogenes, the food was pretty good, especially after not having eaten in over 24 hours.

    chris, at least I'll know what to expect in five years!

    michael, do you know why you were sick? That sounds horrible! Except for the weight loss, but that's not the way one would like to lose weight...

  12. But wait! You didn't finish the retire so young story. Glad it all went well for you.

  13. All's well that "ends" well. Glad it was good news.

  14. So glad you received a clean bill of health - you have so much work to do at home, you don't have time to be sick!


  15. Wow, if that's all you had to say about the prep, it was nowhere near as unpleasant as I recall. Sounds like a huge improvement, which is always nice to hear. Perhaps by my next turn rolls around again they will offer the same prep here.

    Word verification is ramen, which reminds me it's time for lunch. Alas, it will be nothing as class as French hospital food. What a concept!

  16. I am happy for your good news... for you & your ass.

  17. I'm pleased for you. Good news.

  18. Well told, and I'm glad all went well!


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