Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Last Obstacle

In about 45 minutes, I'll be starting the prep for my second colonoscopy, which of course reminds me of the nightmare that was my first colonoscopy prep--but also reminds me of my love story with Bill. How? I'll get to that. But first, a disclaimer: yes, this is going to be yet another poop story. Feel free to bail out if you like.

After less than a year of marriage, Bill and I started talking about having a baby. I might have preferred to wait a bit longer, but I was almost 33 when we got married, and Bill had said if he was going to become a father he wanted it to happen before he was 35. That gave us about three years to work with, but with my history of unexplained infertility with my first child, we thought it best to get started right away. My gynecologist, however, had other ideas. My thyroid was enlarged, and she wanted me to see the endocrinologist first to get the green light for a pregnancy. And due to my brother's history of colon cancer at age 42, she also wanted me to get the colonoscopy that his oncologist had suggested for each of our siblings.

It took three months to get my appointment with the endocrinologist, but I made it past that hurdle with no problem. He adjusted my hypothyroid medicine and said I'd be fine.

But I had to wait much longer for the colonoscopy. We were changing our health insurance to a different plan and had to wait for the enrollment period, and then I had to get a referral, and so on. And that's why, about a year after we wanted to start our family planning, I was actually a little bit excited about my colonoscopy. (Oh, the ignorance!)

The timing was absolutely horrible: Bill's sister Lisa had come down from Canada for a few days with her three-month old daughter Katie, whom we'd never met. As luck would have it, the second day of her visit was the dreaded prep day. For that entire day, my diet was restricted to clear liquids and Jell-O, but I didn't want to miss out on the sightseeing we'd planned for Lisa. So I sipped my water with lemon and felt sorry for myself while Bill and Lisa enjoyed the best Mexican food around. And then I traipsed along behind them, feeling faint, while they toured the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Lisa and Katie

Baby in a Basket!

But the real misery began around 5:00, when I drank the first 8 ounces of the prescribed gallon of GoLytely solution. My brother Rick had warned me that I wouldn't go lightly, and also that it would take effect very quickly. "Just don't stray far from the bathroom," he advised, telling me about a mishap he'd had while trying to do laundry during his first bowel prep. Not that I planned to do any laundry, but I figured if I did I'd be fine since our laundry room is literally ten feet from the toilet. Man, was I naive.

I chugged the first glass of the cherry-flavored, salty, slimy liquid with no problem. This isn't that bad, I thought triumphantly, and then I sat on the couch to wait 15 minutes for my next dose. The leaflet that came with the solution said it would take 30-60 minutes to work, so you can imagine my surprise when, not 10 minutes after that first dose, I felt a violent urge. I sprinted the 15 feet to the bathroom and BARELY managed to get my pants down in time.
Bill and Katie on the Couch Where My Adventure Began

I emptied what surely must have been the entire contents of my colon and waited about two minutes before pulling up my pants. I hadn't even finished washing my hands when it hit me again. And again, I just BARELY made it the 1.5 feet to the toilet.

I'll spare you the details, but let's just say I soon figured out there was no point getting off the toilet at all. This invoked quite a dilemma since it was past time for my second dose, and I really hated to drink it on the toilet.

"BILL!" I hollered. "Bring me another glass please."

That second glass took about 15 minutes to drink. And the third glass took a full hour, sipped through a straw. And the fourth glass, well, I started gagging the moment the cup touched my lips. I couldn't swallow another drop. But based on the constant water that had been passing through for about four hours now, I figured maybe it didn't matter that I'd only finished a third of the solution. It had obviously done its work, and it kept right on working up until nearly midnight.

Bill and Lisa had taken baby Katie off somewhere; I don't remember where. And Ethan was with his dad that weekend, so I was all alone in the house, with only my self pity to keep me company. I was finally off the toilet, but I was so sore I couldn't even sit down properly. So I lay on my side in the recliner and cried.

When they got home, they both laughed over my woes, which infuriated me, especially since I couldn't help laughing myself. Around midnight, I fell into bed utterly exhausted.

When Bill drove me to the endoscopy center the next morning, I was too exhausted to care about my sore bottom or the piteous growls of my gapingly empty stomach. I was just so relieved that the ordeal was coming to an end at last. Or so I thought.

Wheeling my gurney into the procedure room, the nurse asked cheerfully, "So, did you finish your GoLytlely?"

I laughed ruefully. "Wow, that was rough stuff! I only got about a third of it down, but-"

The gurney screeched to a halt. "You didn't finish your prep??" she repeated incredulously.

"No," I answered in a tiny voice. "But it really worked. I had diarrhea for SIX HOURS STRAIGHT. I couldn't even leave the bathroom."

Her mouth set into a firm line as she resumed the short trip. "That doesn't matter," she hissed after a silence so loud I could hear my own heart pounding. "Your colon has to be completely clear."

"It was," I protested. "The diarrhea looked like water."

She went on as if she hadn't heard. "Because if there's any fecal matter in there.... You realize that the procedure might have to be postponed? And you'll have to do the prep again?"

At those words, I burst into tears. I don't mean those silent tears that you hope no one will notice. I mean the kind of sobs that shake your whole body.

And that's what I was doing when she parked me in front of the doctor. At his raised eyebrows, she muttered, "She didn't finish the bowel prep."

I was sobbing so hard I didn't even hear his response. But I heard her all too plainly when she said, "Now calm down or we won't be able to start the IV."

I felt like a little girl again, being scolded by my beloved daddy. I sobbed harder.

And then I felt a gentle hand on my temple, brushing the hair from my eyes. It was the nurse anesthetist, whom I hadn't even noticed standing behind me. "It's okay," he whispered, and I thought maybe he was afraid of the Big Bad Nurse too.

"Sh-she said I'd have to do the p-prep ag-gain," I wailed.

He ran his fingers through my hair, patting my head the way I would pat Ethan's head after a nightmare. "We don't know that," he said softly. "And there's nothing you can do about it now. Just relax. Everything will be okay," he promised. "Just breathe deeply. I'm going to give you a sedative now, and you'll be asleep by the time I've counted backward from 10. When you wake up it will all be over."

My sobs faded into hiccups, and grateful tears splashed into my ears. When the kind man started counting, he only made it to 7 before everything went blissfully black. From that point, I vaguely remember odd splooshy sensations and the faraway sound of  reassuring male voices. I think they kept saying, "It's okay. We can see what we need to see." So I surmise that I might have been crying throughout the procedure.

I was definitely crying when I came out of it. "It's okay," the nurse reassured me as I opened my eyes. Thankfully, it was a different nurse, and she apparently knew nothing of my meltdown, or if she did she was decent enough not to mention it. She turned to Bill, "You never know how people will react to the medication. Some people laugh, some cry... Your wife, she's obviously one of the cry-ers."

She squeezed my hand. "But you don't need to cry any more, sweetie. The procedure went just fine, and everything was normal." To her chagrin, fresh tears rained down my cheeks then, but they were tears of joy. I hadn't realized until that moment how worried I'd been during all those months of waiting. I'd been afraid that I would go through what Rick had gone through, and that I wouldn't be able to have another baby.

In a moment, I was released from all that worry, and the last obstacle had been removed. We could start trying for a baby!

There's just one more thing I'd like you to know. When I read the doctor's report that evening, this is what I saw: "Quality of prep: Excellent." Yes, the quality of my prep was "Excellent" with a capital E! Take that, Big Bad Nurse.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to start my bowel prep.

Looking a Little Worse for the Wear, Day After the Procedure (Aren't the Glasses Awful??)


Gen said...

My heart was breaking for you as I read each word...all it takes is one person (your nurse) to just turn an experience upside down....yet it only takes one person (your anest.) To turn it right side up...I think he was yet another angel that popped into your life when you really needed one....isn't God amazing!

I am praying for a loving team to be caring for you tomorrow:)

Love you-

k and c's mom said...

First off, I have always thought that GoLightly is a very misleading name for this internal "Drain-o". Next, I had a nurse like that when I was prepping to have my son. I hurt for you to read this. Praying for the victory tomorrow for you.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Praying that all will be well for you.

God bless.

Sarah said...

Thank you Gentle, K&C's mom, and Victor! Your prayers were answered. This was so much better than my last experience.


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