Why is it that when you tell people you are having a colonoscopy or any procedure, they proceed to tell you about their own negative experience or someone else’s extremely negative experience?: “You do know that doctor punctured my cousin’s colon and he had to have surgery?” or “You’re aware that the Versed they give you causes memory issues?” or “My friend didn’t even have symptoms and went in for one and they found stage four colon cancer.” Actually, I had a panic attack before I made the appointment and had to postpone for three more months.
When the day had come, my wife dropped me off in admissions and they admitted me to the hospital. They don’t usually admit to do them now, but back then, I had never had one and my insurance covered everything. I was shown to a semi-private room and had no television service. They told me I could get service for five dollars, since insurance didn’t cover. I told them that was ridiculous, but I paid it. Not much different today than the extra data I have to pay for when my son or daughter surfs the web too much when they aren’t using our Wi-Fi at home.
The old fellow in the next bed over was huffing and puffing on oxygen and the curtain was closed. I felt odd not introducing myself, but I didn’t know what he was in for and didn’t want to be rude, wake him, and invade his space. I put on the hospital gown patients were required to wear and slipped into the bed wearing my socks. It wasn’t long before a nurse came in to take my blood pressure and temperature. I told her that I was only there for the colonoscopy and stress test, but she shared it was standard procedure. She asked if I wanted beef or chicken broth for supper, and I said “Neither.”
“You’ll be on liquids until after your procedure. We’ll be back shortly to give you an enema.”
“Yes, an enema. Need to get you cleaned out. You’ll also drink a gallon of laxatives.”
I felt sick, but I certainly didn’t feel comfortable someone shooting a liquid inside me. I didn’t even think I had ever had an enema, and I didn’t see a need to start. In a few minutes, a male technician open the door, smiled and said, “Are you ready?”
I wasn’t quite sure what to think, but I responded, “Well, I was hoping my wife would be here to help, but she hasn’t made it yet.”
“I guess you’ll just have to rely on me. Don’t worry, I’ve done this a lot.”
“Okay,” I said, not feeling comfortable that he’d not only done “this” a lot, but seemed to enjoy it.
“Praise the Lord,” he said. “You took it all.”
Last thing I wanted was an evangelical enema. I felt like I had Mount St. Helens inside me ready to explode and part of me wanted to explode onto the tech.
I hurried into the restroom, where I stayed for some time. After another blood pressure and temperature check, they pulled back the curtain to check the old man’s. He seemed groggy and coughed and they checked him and the nurse told him, “Supper’s coming. They’re just down the hall. Want me to leave the curtain open?”
“Sure,” he wheezed. He asked what I was in for and I shared. Apparently, he was in for the long haul. I learned he had C.O.P.D., diabetes, and needed a pacemaker. I excused myself a couple of times to rid myself of enema after effects and shared I’d never had an enema and especially from a guy technician who seemed to enjoy giving it and praised Jesus, and he laughed and couldn’t catch his breath. The nurse had to return and scolded him and me.
I downed the gallon of laxative, felt rumblings, and continued to use the restroom. At supper, I downed chicken broth and iced tea, and he had a burger with veggies and green Jell-O. Sam and I talked, but in mid-sentence, he fell asleep. May have been the drugs they gave him or the liquor. He had a bottle in his coat jacket in the closet and asked for a cup, and I poured it for him once shift change had occurred and I knew they weren’t coming for more vitals. Since it was liquid, I had a glass, too.
The next morning, after more liquids, a nurse came in and gave me a miniature cup of pills to take, and I asked her what they were. “Oh, just something to help you relax.”
I asked again, and the nurse Ratched look-alike from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest said, “It don’t matter. Just take them. They’ll help you relax.”
Annoyed, I swallowed them and said, “Well, I have several allergies and want to make sure I’m not allergic.”
Then, she finally named them, and I said, “Oh my God. I’m allergic to that.” Nurse Ratched ran from the room, the old man began to laugh and wheeze, and a whole team came back. She told me I was evil for the joke, but I think others were secretly glad I got her.
Within the hour, others came for me, and Sam told me good luck, said he appreciated the laughs. I was wheeled into what I supposed was a small operating room just as they wheeled out an obese man. A sudden shift on the gurney might find him spilling into the hallway. I asked if he’d just had a colonoscopy, the nurse nodded, and I asked, “Are you going to use the same hose on me, and if you do, is it going to be cleaned?”
She told me they had a legal protocol for sterilization which they followed. Once inside, they gave me a shot, asked me to count backwards from ten, and at eight, I didn’t recall anything more until I woke up back in my hospital room. At first, I thought I was in a different room. Sam wasn’t there. In fact, when a nurse I thought was Wilma Flintstone came in, I thought I might still be in the room of the procedure. She said, “You did fine” and added, “The doctor will be here in a moment.” I whispered, “Yabba Dabba Do,” and she looked at me and smiled. The doctor gave me an all clear, told me I should rest the rest of the day, and I could return to work the next morning. When I asked about Sam, he said he wasn’t his patient, so he didn’t know, but imagined he might be having some tests or having a procedure.
When my wife arrived to take me home, I grabbed my jacket in the closet and saw Sam’s liquor bottle in the pocket and hoped a new patient would give him a drink. I wondered about Sam and his pacemaker procedure the next day and thought I should visit him and make sure someone else offered him a drink, but I got busy and never made it back.
Niles Reddick is author of the Pulitzer-nominated novel “Drifting too far from the Shore,” a collection “Road Kill Art and Other Oddities,” and a novella “Lead Me Home.” His work has been featured in eleven anthologies/collections and in over a hundred and fifty literary magazines all over the world including PIF, Drunk Monkeys, Spelk, Cheap Pop, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Slice of Life, Faircloth Review, among many others. His new collection Reading the Coffee Grounds was just released. His website is www.nilesreddick.com.