Friday, August 1, 2014
Just a Flesh Wound
I have experienced bouts of anemia periodically since my most recent colon surgery in October 2012. The anemia has required transfusions on three separate occasions. The latest of those was in May 2013. At no point, after careful examination each time by often unpleasantly intrusive means, was any source of internal bleeding found. After the final transfusion, I was prescribed iron pills. No further problems occurred until a few weeks ago when my hemoglobin began to plummet. This means a shortage of red blood cells. I was bleeding internally. I will leave it to you to figure out how we figured out the blood was from my digestive system. It should not be too difficult to determine.
I braced myself for two highly intrusive tests--a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. The latter is frequently dubbed an EDG. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to refer to it as such. It is probably safe to assume you know what happens during a colonoscopy. An EDG involves going in the mouth and down the throat. So both the entrance an exits are covered. We are getting shaky on this staying classy thing, I know. Bear with me as long as long as your dainty sensibilities will permit. I have endured both procedures before. One is usually not knocked out for a colonoscopy, but always for an EDG. One tends to panic and/or barf otherwise. Since one was going to be performed right after the other, I was to be mercifully asleep for both. One of the few fortunate happenstances to befall me in quite a while. It was about the only good fortune I enjoyed this week.
Monday morning was the start of a clear liquid diet that was supposed to last until after the procedures, which would mean a late lunch for me Tuesday afternoon. Not only did I have to suffer through three meals and Jell-O, but the evening featured hours of preparation cleaning myself out for the next morning. There is a huge jug of industrial strength laxative to drink which leaves one’s colon spic and span. I did not have to drink it because of my feeding tube, but that counted for only half the battle. Industrial strength laxatives and colostomies are a volatile combination. Picture the flooding scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a visual aid. Monday night was a long, busy night indeed.
My clear liquid diet turned into a nuthin’, no way, no how diet at midnight. I was a little on the lightheaded side Tuesday morning, but I could handle deprivation a few more hours. I was chauffeured in the oak haven van to the hospital. I had expected to go to the main McLeod in Florence, but wound up, much to my surprise, at McLeod-Darlington. If you recall, that was my old stomping ground for five or so weeks last summer. I had not been there in over a year. It would have been great to run into people I knew. As it turned out, Chappel was in charge of my paperwork. You may recall Chappel used to take my walking so I did not have to use a wheelchair like McLeod-Darlington required. She earned high marks in my book for this and many other sweet gestures.
I became enormously depressed when one of the questions she needed to ask was if I had thoughts of harming myself in the last six months. I sheepishly admitted I was on suicide watch for over a month at the beginning of the year. She asked if I had actually tried to kill myself. I told her someone stopped me., but living in a nursing home did not agree with me. She was much quieter throughout the rest of the forms. It did not dawn on me right away her asking if I actually tried to kill myself was her own question, not the form’s. Sometimes my distrustful, solitary attitude blinds me to reciprocated personal bonds. It is definitely not the best thoughts to have just before going under for a medical procedure.
Neither of them took too long. I was awake in about an hour. My head was slamming, though. The doctor had used my forehead for leverage when dropping the scope down my throat. Or an elephant sat on it. I remain unclear which, and can only speculate based on the amount of pain. I was given something for the pain. Whether it was the anesthetic or the painkiller that prompted me to barf up whatever I could still miraculously have in me, barf it up I did. The anesthesiologist just did get out the way. There were no hard feelings between, though. She was a sweet lady who stayed by the gurney with a wet cloth for my forehead while I waited for a room to be cleaned. Colonoscopies/EDG are only outpatient procedures if you do not barf afterwards.
In the meantime, the doctor, after determining my lucidity, revealed there was a spot on my stomach in which the interior lining is flaking off. I had an ulcer. This spot was almost certainly the source for the bleeding, but he could not get as good a look inside my colon as he wanted. He planned to take another look later in the week. I still was not quite lucid enough for that to sink in, nor was I particularly cooperative for a quick CT scan after he departed. Three radiologists sort of tossed me around and positioned me like a rag doll. I hope they had fun.
Those plans for that light lunch offered after one awakens from the procedures were quickly dashed, but I passed out the moment I was settled in my room, anyway. It was the next morning before I stirred again For whatever reason, they were not going to send a breakfast tray, so the first shift CNA microwaved a cup of instant grits. Normally, I would refuse grits out of general principle, but I had not had any real food since Sunday night, so I went for it. Picked at it, anyway. At a certain point, you can get so hungry, eating does not even matter anymore. A self-defense mechanism, maybe?
I was transported back to Oakhaven while using a wheelchair. I did not put up the slightest fuss over the issue. If you know me well, you will understand how weary I must have felt in order to cooperate with such a “chariot." At some point before leaving McLeod-Darlington, I vaguely heard and acknowledged a CT scan newly scheduled for Friday. Yeah, yeah. Okay…zzzzzz.
I managed to get down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich Wednesday eveningt before being informed the test for Friday was not a mere CT scan, but a virtual colonoscopy. Well, that did not sound good. Neither did the clear liquid diet and industrial strength laxatives planned for Thursday. Have mercy upon my scrawny self as I wither away.
The last line of the previous paragraph was no joke. The plan to drive me to the hospital for the virtual colonoscopy via Oakhaven’s van was quickly changed to a call for an ambulance transport. I could not put one foot in front of the other Friday morning. The trip to the hospital for the procedure and back took a shade under four hours. My feet touched the floor once during that time, and I nearly toppled a radiologist went that happened. I might wind up with two ulcers after all this.
True to my luck, a virtual colonoscopy is much like an actual colonoscopy. The only difference I could discern is the drugs were not as good. Insult to injury, I got bruised up rolling around on the unpadded, metal table. The bruises added a nice finishing touch to the week’s festivities.
Does this story have a happy ending? Yes, as much as an ending can be in the real world. My colon got the all clear. The fissure is still there, but not bleeding. No diverticula is ready to burst, either, so the cycle is not about to repeat itself. I finally got to eat a solid meal late Friday afternoon for the first time since Sunday evening. A bleeding ulcer is about the best diagnosis to receive under the circumstances. I have to make some dietary changes, take a strong antacid, and stop fantasizing about going all Bruce lee on everyone who annoys me, but I will recover. Assuming that Bruce Lee thing is not as hard a habit to break as I believe it will be.