Colonoscopy – My experience

A colonoscopy is a great opportunity to get to know your bathroom a lot better.

As I have acromegaly, I’m at greater risk of having polyps on my colon (large intestine). Colonic polyps are, in a way, little fleshy bits (like little ‘skin tags’ or overgrown spots) that grow inside the colon. Often these polyps don’t do very much, but they can lead on and become cancerous. So yesterday, I had a colonoscopy to see if I had any polyps or anything else wrong with my colon.

Three days before the procedure, I had to avoid high fibre foods.

The day before the procedure I had to take the laxative ‘Citrafleet’ (Sodium Picosulfate) to ‘prepare’ my bowel.

Armed with three packs of toilet paper (yes, ‘packs’, not rolls), I took the laxative, retreated to the toilet, and waited for my bottom to explode.

I was thankful to the inventor of the flushing toilet and even more so that I hadn’t indulged in a curry the previous night.

I was allowed have a limited amount of low residue non-fatty foods up until lunch time. Allowed (amongst other things) are boiled or poached eggs, white bread, and sieved soup.

Sieving minestrone soup is an experience. The stuff left behind really takes you back. That reminds me why I don’t like cider.

The laxative worked. Oh yes. The rumble and eruption was on par with an Icelandic volcano. A ‘no-walk zone’ of twenty paces around the bathroom resulted. The consultant had told me it would be like dynamite. I was not to be disappointed. Dynamite it was. I almost had to hold onto the seat.

In all fairness though, I had expected this, and amongst my armoury was plenty of toilet paper, and I’d put a book and a newspaper in the bathroom before I’d taken the first laxative. I’d also bought moist toilet tissues too. I took the second laxative at four o’clock in the afternoon, and just had a bowl of jelly after that (jelly was allowed!).

So the day of the colonoscopy arrived. The procedure was explained to me by a nurse practitioner, and by the specialist (PF), consent forms completed. I dressed into a hospital gown, and went into the room for the procedure.

The room had a hospital trolley/bed, a great big computer monitor, and some apparatus on the other side. I guessed that was the ‘telescope’ or ‘endoscope’. I didn’t look at it too closely, just in case I scared myself! I had a cannula put into a vein of my right arm, and I was asked to roll onto my left side, and bend my legs with my knees up. I had a sheet covering my lower body to protect my modesty and I didn’t feel too self conscious or embarrassed . A tube with a sponge supplying oxygen was put just up my nostril. It smelt really ‘plasticky’. The specialist administered a painkiller and sedative using the cannula that he’d put in.

I was facing the screen, so I could see the view of the scope. The scope itself was obviously warmed to body temperature, and although a very strange disturbing sensation it did not physically hurt.

I could see the images on the screen, and quite soon I was more interested in what was on the screen than anything else. It was quite fascinating! It was like having my ‘head up my own arse’ (if you pardon the expression)! It was really well lit, I’m guessing the sun really does shine up there. It’s a strange land of very convoluted pinky-white tubing. The laxative had worked really well – I was quite impressed.

I had a little discomfort a couple of times, feeling like trapped wind, and the specialist stopped and administered more sedative or pain relief (I didn’t know which). The nurse was writing down the doses as he was giving them. On occasion he’d see something on the wall of the colon, then he’d squirt it with water, then it would go again. He explained that they were food particles. Now and again the image would go completely pink, and I expect that this was when he was ‘turning a corner’ in the colon (it has two or three bends).

Anyhow the specialist got right to the end of the colon, and then retracted and inspecting on the way back. If you’ve ever gone on a tour of an underground cavern, it’s always a shame when you get to the end, and have to turn back!

I was rolled on my back, and wheeled to the ward to recover, for them to keep their eye on me (and check my BP and O2) . I didn’t feel particularly sedated, and neither had I through the procedure.

The specialist explained that everything was normal. Excellent!!

I got changed, was given a small aftercare leaflet on the procedure, and my lovely wife took me home. They said that a responsible adult would have to keep an eye on me for the next 24h or so. My wife would have to do. (Only joking!).

So in summary: A colonoscopy is not half as bad as you might imagine. Many people are so well sedated they don’t even remember it. I found the view really interesting. It pays to plan ahead a little for the laxative day. Moist toilet tissue is great.

PS Apparently Thomas Crapper did not invent the flushing toilet, I was surprised to find. It’s the kind of fascinating detail to ponder after spending a day of your life on the porcelain throne.

PPS: The lighter side of a Colonoscopy: Billy Connolly, Homer Simpson, Robert Klein