OPINION

The Flatlander

Day of popsicles and Jello turns south fast

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For several hours last Monday night, it was the only thought I could think.

I need someone to hold a grudge against. Somebody’s got to pay.

It all began about a year ago – a time when I truly settled into the idea that I’m no youngster anymore.

We’d become fully insured and there was no reason not to promise the family I’d become a better steward of my health. There are still some things in this life I’d like to see and do, not to mention I still need some time to get to the kind of person I’d like to be. So, I made the promise. I’d do all those textbook things a man in his middle fifties is supposed to do for a clear bill of health.

The first step involved a decision about where to have a primary care physician. Dr. Steve Golden of Jonesboro is my longtime friend and PCP, but I now spend a lot less time in Jonesboro, and a lot more time in Mountain View. In the course of work here, I’d become acquainted with Jody Smotherman, administrator at Stone County Medical Center, so I asked his advice about choosing a new doctor. After a bit of research I asked to be placed under the care of Dr. Michelle Bishop. Great choice. Dr. Bishop is a first-class family doc. I scheduled a first “wellness check” with her back in August knowing it would go beyond our initial pleasantries.

Sure enough, I left our meeting scheduled for a colonoscopy back in Jones-boro. The long-anticipated date arrived last week. It went something like this:

We scheduled the procedure for early Tuesday morning with a 6:45 check in at Outpatient Surgery Center in Jonesboro. But the real process began almost 36 hours prior.

The patient’s responsibility for this procedure includes some harsh dietary restrictions that begin with a final meal of “real food” two evenings before the appointment. The following day’s intake is a liquid diet of clear broths and juices. No red food coloring allowed. I had a headache by 9:30 the morning before, and Monday is our busiest day here at the Leader. It was broth for breakfast, a couple of popsicles for lunch, a snack of some pineapple Jello, and strained wonton dumpling soup for supper. Oh, how I wanted that dumpling. I needed that dumpling.

Now, patients have two options the evening before the procedure. You can drink a couple of oily gallons of 10W-30 like substance which sort of gets things kicked into gear if you will. Or you may take two rounds each of 12 pills, four hours apart, drinking an obscene volume of water as part of the process.

At 6 p.m. that Monday night I took the first round of 12 pills, drank the first of six rounds of 36 ounces of water.

And then I waited.

Fifteen minutes passed. Nothing dramatic except a gut full of water and soup. I decided to lie down in bed and pretend it wasn’t happening.
It begins with the dullest of abdominal pains. Nothing dramatic or with cause for alarm. Just dull and aggravating. You know something’s happening and it’s probably headed for dramatic somewhere down the line.

That’s when I had the vengeful thought: Somebody’s gotta pay for this.

The next two hours were miserable. No sleep. Constant discomfort. Literally racing to the bathroom. And about the time everything settles down, you begin the process all over again with another 12 pills followed by a gallon and a half of water over the next hour.

I’ve heard about water-boarding torture. This could not have been too far off.

Now, I’m no pharmacist, but it seems those 12 pills are designed to expand inside your gut. They are activated by the massive amounts of water in a process that culminates in, well, you get the drift by now. At this point, all signs of hunger and headache have subsided. It’s just a relay race back and forth to the restroom, and you’re thinking about that person against whom you’re going to hold the grudge. Revenge against someone. Anyone. Oh, how sweet.

By 3 a.m. the process begins subsiding. You’re hungry, depleted, a bit shaky, and without sleep. And there’s a wake-up call in two hours.
It was the worst of the process by far. Anesthesia is a wonderful thing. It’s like a momentary void that erases the unpleasant experiences.

If only it had ended there.

The peripheral results were more alarming for the bedside nurse than any findings related to the procedure. Under anesthesia, I stopped breathing three times and my heart rate dropped to 30 beats per minute.

Now there’s a sleep study in my future for something called bradycardia.
Maybe they’ll let me have a pizza party before dozing off for observation.

See you in next week’s newspaper.
Be sure to check out next week’s column on a milestone moment experienced last weekend at our very own Pizza Inn.

(Steve Watkins is a reporter/columnist for the Stone County Leader. Write him at steve@stonecountyleader.com)

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