Former NBC “Today” anchor Katie Couric had a colonoscopy on live t.v. fifteen years ago, remember? Surely I could write about the subject, if delicately put.
It was my husband’s turn a few weeks ago, not on t.v. of course, though a situation comedy came to mind — Jackie Gleason’s, perhaps.
“Why do I have to have one?” Peter demanded as I handed him four little pills to start the cleansing process.
“Because you had polyps five years ago,” I said.
“Does everyone have colonoscopies?”
“They save lives,” I preached, “and they’re recommended for everyone 0ver fifty.”
No one likes to prep for a colonoscopy, but a patient with dementia is “lucky.” He won’t remember from one minute to the next why he has to drink quarts of gritty stuff dissolved in an electrolyte-filled sports drink, why he can’t eat for twenty-four hours, nor why he shouldn’t take the dog for a long walk lest he get caught short!
Peter is not a morning person so his early appointment wasn’t to his liking either. We waited just minutes before the nurse called him. “I’ll come too,” I said.
“No, I’ll get you when he’s ready.”
I knew she’d be back quickly. “Mrs. Clarke, come with me, please.” She chuckled as we walked. “When I asked Mr. Clarke why he was here, he didn’t know.”
“He can’t remember,” I said.
“He thought endoscopy?”
I laughed. “Um, no, wrong end. Colonoscopy.”
After she’d taken his BP, asked more questions (which I answered), and started an IV, she left so he could undress and put on a hospital gown. He didn’t understand why he had to take all his clothes off — he’d keep his knickers on, he said. “Nope, those too,” I insisted, as I tied him into a gown obviously designed for someone three times larger than my skinny husband.
Soon, our jolly, effervescent gastroenterologist popped in, offered a few reassuring words, and away they went.
Peter was back within thirty minutes, accompanied by a giggling nurse and chortling anesthesiologist. “Your husband is a riot,” he said. “When Dr. R finished, I asked Peter to open his eyes, but he opened his mouth like he was at the dentist!” Yup, he still had the wrong end!
The doctor came in to deliver good news and bad. “You had four tiny polyps,” he explained, “and they looked ‘fine,’ but we will send them off for biopsy.” Peter’s blank look told me he didn’t understand a word. “But the good news is, it takes about seven years for any new polyps to become cancerous, if they’re going to, so no further colonoscopies will be required.“ In other words, age will probably claim him before an attacking polyp. “Sounds terrible, that option,” the doctor whispered to me.
I shook my head. “He’d rather that than another prep.” Peter waggled his eyebrows in agreement.
The doctor showed off the “beautiful pictures” of Peter’s colon as if they were photos of his grandchildren. I raised my left eyebrow to say that only a gastroenterologist would think they were pretty! That prompted him to trot out a joke from his vast repertoire, this one about Yankees. I reminded him, a Southern gentleman, that I’m a Yankee.
He was undeterred. “Yankees are like hemorrhoids. When they come south, they’re a pain in the ass, and the pain doesn’t go away until they head back up north.”