The Colonoscopy and Endoscopy Are Behind Me

I successfully made it through the colonoscopy and endoscopy yesterday. As predicted, the wait until it was finally time for the procedure was the toughest part of the day because by that point, I was so hungry, thirsty, and tired. I wasn’t allowed to drink after 3:30am (when I finished all that I could keep down of the second part of my prep). I was dreaming of cold water all morning while trying to swallow with a dry throat. You aren’t permitted to drink after a certain point because of the risks involved with anesthesia. I’m sure they want to reduce the risk of aspirating if you vomit while under the sedation.

The morning passed slowly since I had been up all night and prepping since 1am (with the MoviPrep once it was clear the Miralax oddly bound me up). I watched baking shows, wrote, talked with Ben, and spent time outside.

We got to the local hospital a bit before 9:30, registered, and then entered the surgical ward where I tried to recline my slouching body in the chair I was directed to before a bed for me was available. With only 30 minutes of sleep under my belt and the depletion from the prep, I was hanging on by what felt like a single thread. It took a while to have the bed open up, but in the meantime, a nurse took my vitals, gave me allergy alert armbands, and answered my questions. Ben kept me company and tried to keep me calm and comfortable despite my impossible requests for a drink and to lie down.

When the bed opened up, the nurse had me strip and put in my gown. I was still needing to use the bathroom fairly frequently, but in my weakened state, it took me a while to meander around the floor to the toilet. My body temperature had dropped so I asked for a heated blanket, which was a funny plastic sheet that got inflated like a pool raft with hot air from a hose. Once the nurse inserted my IV, I tore the plastic sheet off because I started to heat up from the anxiety and pain from the IV. It’s like blood work but worse since the pain exists for much longer. The IV fluid was cold and it sort of felt like it was sharply stinging as it entered my arm. I made sure it was “normal” by asking the nurse and Ben to check. Every time I had to use the bathroom, the bag came with me.

The wait until it was time for my procedure felt long, although it was a bit less than 90 minutes as I remember seeing the clock read 10:55 when the surgical nurse wheeled my bed toward the OR. Prior to that, my gastroenterologist came out and talked to us about the planned procedure and answered our questions. As I remembered from my appointment with him in March, he had a very calming demeanor and he calmed my nerves. The anesthesiologist also came out and talked to us. She was very friendly and when I told her I was anxious about the anesthesia, she listened to my concerns and my advice in how to soothe me if I started getting anxious when she titrated in the medicine. For one of my previous colonoscopies, when the anesthesiologist started administering the sedative, my heart rate spiked and I freaked out. I think the tachycardia was from anxiety rather than a bad reaction to the medicine. I just remembered as it hit my system, I was flushed with heat, which caused me to panic. That, in turn, caused me to fight the sleepiness the medicine was supposed to cause because I wanted to stay awake and tell them something seemed wrong and perhaps I was dying. This time, after she had me all set up in the surgical room and they were to begin dripping in the anesthesia, she said, “you’ll feel a warming sensation but it won’t last long; that’s what’s supposed to happen.” I did feel that, yet knowing it was normal allowed me to feel calmed by it (like, “Yay! It’s going to plan!) rather than concerned like that other time.

When it was time to say goodbye to Ben, I did tear up, but I made no big scene and really didn’t feel all that scared. Half of the trigger was just that I was so overtired and weak. I’m the room, they hooked up my heart monitor and blood pressure cuff. My pulse was very slow, but I assured them that rates in the 40s are typical for me. After they gave me a heated blanket and had my lie on my side, it spiked into the upper 50s and the surgical team seemed happier with that. They inserted by nasal oxygen, gave me a mouth guard, and the doctor had me state my name and date of birth one more time. The last thing I remember is the anesthesiologist telling me we were going to start and that I would feel the warming sensation. My lips battled the mouthguard as I tried to tell her I thought she was beautiful. Weird comment, I guess.

When I woke up in the recovery room, my eyes felt too heavy to open. I was still super groggy but I remember my doctor telling me things had gone well and that they took 24 biopsies (14 of the stomach and small intestine through the upper endoscopy and 10 of my colon). He didn’t see anything clearly wrong. I asked for Ben and they retrieved him from the waiting area. I think the doctor repeated a similarly brief, but positive, report and said that the likely next step will be further imaging of my small intestines. I had abdominal pain, but the nurse told me that’s from all the air they insert to expand the structures for better visualization. Gas pain can be alarmingly sharp and uncomfortable; I often find myself wondering how air can create that much distress!

I felt like they ushered me out of recovery before I felt ready; I was still so out of it and woozy, but at least we live close by and Ben helped me dress and walk to the car. I equated myself to the bleary-eyed Comet upon her arrival home after her ACL repair in April. I told him I wanted to drink and to sit outside on our newly stained deck. All I remember is that he went to retrieve a deck chair from its storage in our garage. I couldn’t wait or stand up so I lay belly down in the sunshine on the deck. When he came back with the chair, I didn’t want to unpeel myself from my restful position, even though it was hard against my unpadded body.

Once I started drinking and an hour or so had passed, I felt much more with it. I had some broth to ease my stomach back into eating and to get my blood sugar up a bit. I took a short walk, as slow as one could possibly travel bipedally. My body was too depleted and I was still coming out of the anesthetic stupor to really amble along with any workable speed. I wanted to stretch my legs though and help my body process the remaining medication.

I ate for a while when I got home and felt better in many regards after doing so except that my stomach burned from the biopsies.

The rest of the afternoon was short and went quickly because I went to bed so early. I slept surprisingly well, although I had to get up a lot of times to use bathroom. I also had pain from the biopsies and the insertion sites of the scopes. I’m sure Ben was glad to have a long evening alone to decompress and do his own thing after so much togetherness.

Today, things are mostly back to normal. My stomach still feels like a cat scratched the insides, mistaking me for a scratch post. I’m not anxious about it though; I know that burning sensation is expected from all the little excisions of tissue for testing. I’m working all day and I’m actually looking forward to that because I miss it when I don’t. I took the entire day off yesterday of course and only worked in the early morning on Monday because of my gyn appointment and hypoglycemia from fasting. I can’t put in my best effort when my brain is foggy and unable to focus well. This always happens if my blood sugar is too low. I need to be sharp and of full mental acuity when I’m working in order to perform at the requisite high capacity. Editing, in particular, necessitates meticulous attention to detail.

The fiscal year at Ben’s job ends this week, which means that the cushion of paid time off he had to use over May and June now resets. We use vacation time sparingly throughout the year since we don’t have money to travel and because he used to need to use those days to stay home and take care of me when I wasn’t feeling well. I’m now less anxious when I feel “off,” so he rarely needs to stay home because I’m sick. He takes days to bring me to appointments, but not just ones where I feel anxious about how badly I feel physically. (Because I feel unwell a lot, those days off used to really add up!) Now that I’m much more confident in my ability to calm myself and take care of myself, we get to save those previously “wasted” days off (in the sense that they weren’t fun for either of us) and use them for fun days together or productive days. This is another example instance where I’ve made major improvements in my self-efficacy and trauma healing.

This year, being essentially the first where I felt capable of managing myself alone even on my sickest or most injured days, Ben ended up with tons of vacation time stockpiled by the end of April to use in May and June less it expire by July 1st. That’s one reason I’ve scheduled so many medical appointments and also why we’ve had the luxury of some beautiful days off together this spring to do home projects and hang out. Because we see each other so little during a typical work week, it’s a doubly special gift to have full days during the week where he’s home. I’ll definitely miss this in the coming months as his vacation balance resets and we go back to saving most of the time for “emergencies.”  It’ll be a tough adjustment to go back to our daily reality of only seeing one another weekends and briefly in the mornings all five work days. We’ve had at least a bonus half day of time together every week, I believe, since the beginning of May. I know it’s important to appreciate the special time we’ve had together, and I certainly do, but that doesn’t really lessen the struggle of not seeing him much moving forward. At least I know that we at least have our weekends together to enjoy.

Thankfully, the worst of the medical appointments should be behind me. In the coming weeks, it’s possible some sort of helpful information will surface. For now, my goal is to rest and recover and use the success of these experiences (from self-advocacy and controlled anxiety perspectives) to bolster my confidence and reduce the fear and dread next time a difficult appointment comes around. I did it this time so I can do it next time.

1 Comment

  1. I am so glad the procedure went well and you felt for the most part well cared for. I never had a combined colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, though I’ve had both. I never knew you’re not supposed to drink right before this procedure, but I had mine both under twilight anesthesia, not full general anesthesia. The hardest part for me was that I didn’t remember the procedure and the time after it (including in the ccase of the colonoscopy receiving the results) despite having cooperated. In my case, no biopsies had to be taken as there was nothing unusual to be seen.

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