Thursday, September 07, 2006

My "Katie Couric" Moment

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure a year ago during an especially stressful period. We had spent the summer remodeling the kitchen; plus I had accepted a new job just four months after starting another job that I was now going to quit. No surprise then that my blood pressure was off the charts when I went to the local Kaiser Medical Center for my annual checkup. The doctor took one look at the figures and quickly accompanied me to a darkened room, where I was given a sedative and directed to lie down. Apparently they expected me to stroke out right then and there. When you’re treated extra nicely at Kaiser then you know something is wrong!

My blood pressure is now under control; but while the doctor had me captive, she scheduled a sigmoidoscopy, which I had managed to escape when I turned fifty. Three months later, I watched in rapt fascination as a tiny camera made its way up my colon. All looked good, except for a small polyp that would have to be removed. The technician put me on the waiting list for a colonoscopy. I decided that if “Today Show” host Katie Couric could undergo a colonoscopy on TV in front of millions of viewers, then I certainly could have one, too.

Kaiser being Kaiser, I didn’t get a call until the following August to schedule the procedure. I selected Tuesday, September 5, a week after summer school ended and three days after our big party. I was then sent a letter, advising me to eat a low-fiber diet the week before the procedure. Also included were prescriptions for the laxatives I was supposed to take the day before. The pharmacist repeated the instructions, emphasizing the importance of refrigerating the liquid laxative. As I was leaving, a woman, who looked strangely like Whoopi Goldberg, grabbed my arm and said, “Honey, when they tell you to chill that stuff, you better get it good and cold, because that stuff is NAAASTY...!”

Since I wasn’t allowed to eat up to 24 hours beforehand, I decided to have a big breakfast on Monday. My last meal: Dinah’s famous apple pancake with cottage fries and bacon. In fact, if I ever find myself on death row, I would definitely order this as my last breakfast as no one makes a better morning meal than Dinah’s!

At noon, I took four laxatives and then shut myself inside the house while Tim went to the movies. Six hours later, I started to drink the liquid, which came with five flavor packs: cherry, lemon, lime, orange, and pineapple. I picked pineapple, which masked the nasty taste well. But it would be difficult to drink three liters of even the most delicious elixir on earth—especially over just three hours!—and so I ended up slugging down only two liters. I’ll save you the gory details on how effective they were...

My appointment was at 9:15 the next morning. Although I was awake for the sigmoidoscopy, I knew I’d be anesthetized during the colonoscopy. Tim, therefore, took the day off from work so he could take me to and from the hospital. We arrived early, as instructed, and then waited while other victims disappeared behind a door. Eventually, my name was called and Tim was told to come back an hour-and-a-half later. I was directed to change into an old hospital gown and put my clothes into a large plastic bag, which was then tucked under my gurney. A nurse named Rick proceeded with preparing the needle for my i.v. Looking at both arms, he tsked and said, “Oh dear, what tiny veins you have!” He then frowned at me like I was a bad girl for not having bulging arteries. After a couple of attempts, another nurse was called in and I was finally prepped. A third nurse, who sat in the corner busily crocheting something yellow, quickly stood up when the doctor walked in. He explained what was going to happen and then asked me to lie on my side. I kept waiting for them to start the anesthetic...when suddenly I was being wheeled out of the room into a long hallway divided by curtains.

“Is it over?” I groggily asked Rick. “Yes, all done,” he answered and then asked if I wanted some fruit juice. I waved him away and fell back to sleep. He returned a few minutes later and said I needed to start waking up. Oddly enough, they allowed me to wear my glasses the entire time, so I could see lots of other colonoscopy patients in various stages of sleep. We looked like stacked-up airplanes waiting to take off at LAX.

Rick fetched my clothes and told me to get dressed. Apparently they were desperate for space and wanted people to leave as soon as possible. He then took me out to a small waiting room, where I sat with Tim until the doctor came. Now I get woozy on aspirins, so you can imagine how I felt. The doctor said we’d have the results of the polyp biopsy within ten days and then said he’d see me again in five years. (“Not if I can help it!” I thought to myself). We then got up to leave.

I could barely make it to the elevator, so Tim went in search of a wheelchair, which he borrowed from somewhere. “Where did you get this chair?” I yelled in my stupor. “SHHHH!” was all he said.

At home, I went immediately to bed, where I passed out fully clothed. I woke-up an hour later madly craving a club sandwich, but settled for toast instead. Two hours later, I was back to normal, answering the slue of emails that had accumulated over the day. After being deprived of roughage for an entire week, I drove over to CPK for my favorite smoked bacon and gorgonzola salad and savored every morsel. My “Katie Couric moment” was now officially over.


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