A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Colonoscopy
I had a colonoscopy on Friday, and let me start out by saying that the results were basically fine. I have mixed feelings about writing on this topic, this being a garden blog and all (annuals, biennials, colonoscopies … wait, something doesn’t fit here). However, there is a moral to this story that in the end I wanted to share.
So there I was in the GI lab, lying on my side, and the nurse tells me they’re about to administer the sedative. Suddenly there is a hot, painful sensation in my arm with the IV needle. Now, this was the third time I have been through this procedure and this pain in the arm was a new experience.
Like a dummy, I didn’t say anything. I am one of those people who absorbed the lesson early in life that enduring pain without complaint is a sign of moral superiority. Deep in the primitive part of my brain I firmly believe that at some point i will get a medal for suffering in silence, or at the very least a round of applause.
Anyway, some minutes later the doctor asks me if I’m feeling sleepy. He’s experienced in his field with a reputation for being highly competent. I say no. He says something to the effect of: Give him another dose.
And then we’re off to the races, the doctor humming some tune that I can’t identify. Except I’m still not sleepy. In fact, I begin to experience discomfort, then pain. Eventually it’s enough pain that I can’t keep quiet any more. I start grunting and then muttering bad words.
The doctor is puzzled. He asks how much sedative I’ve been given, apparently it is a lot. I think he says to give me another dose, I’m not sure. And we keep going, him still humming something that was melodic only in his own mind.
Eventually they finish the procedure (it takes 30-40 minutes, I think). And only then do they realize that my right forearm, the one with the IV needle, is swollen and red. Apparently the IV needle had moved, or perhaps had been inserted wrong, and so the sedative didn’t go into my vein. The doctor and other staff apologize profusely.
At this point I’m just glad it’s over. They wrap my arm in something, and I am left to recover.
The moral of the story is this: pain, especially in this context, is a symptom of something wrong, not a test of your virtue. There will be no medal or applause in recognition of your stoicism. Or if there is, I’m still waiting for it. And I know that some of you share this delusion (you know who you are). It may be that most of you are guys, but I’m not sure.
So if something hurts unexpectedly, especially while you’re undergoing some kind of medical procedure, I highly recommend not keeping quiet about it. I could have avoided a lot of unpleasantness if I had done so at the very beginning.
A little postscript. When the doctor came back some time later to debrief Judy and I, he gave us color photos of the two little non-cancerous polyps he had found in my intestines. Modern technology makes this possible, I guess. He seemed quite proud of the pictures, as if they were of his favorite grandchildren. I’m glad he is so enthusiastic about his work, but personally I didn’t feel any need for a memento of the experience.