Dr. X

On Monday last week, after consuming massive quantities of a viscous fluid the consistency of watered down maple syrup, the flavor of a combination of citrus fruits, none of which are clearly recognizable, but required to evacuate my bowels, I was escorted to the Physician’s Endoscopy Center by my son, Joshua.  I hadn’t eaten since before bed on Saturday night.  Just in case you’re wondering, chicken bouillon, espresso, and water do not constitute anything even remotely close to sustenance.  By Monday morning, I was ravenous and attempting to remain cordial in casual conversation.

Joshua arrived to pick me up a little after noon.  Procedure performance expected at 1:30 PM, arrival requested by 12:30 PM.  I arrived a little bit after.  No worries.  Check-in was eventless since I’d already filled out everything online.  But I needed the ladies room.  That viscous fluid was still wreaking havoc on my innards.

Smiling, eyebrows raised, I inquired of the receptionist, through almost-grit teeth, “So, where is the ladies room, please?”   That last bit delivered with a pleading grimace.

She scurried to show me, then halted my progress with a question.

“When was the first day of your last cycle?”

I’m here for a gastrointestinal procedure and she’s asking about my period.

“June first.”

“Well, we’re going to need a urine sample, so you might as well take this with you.” 

She scrounged around the supplies cupboard, found a Styrofoam cup, scribbled my name with a black Bic stick, and handed it to me.

“Just put it in the cabinet in the ladies room and close the door.  The nurse will know where to find it.”

I hustled to the ladies room and with a relieved sigh, sat down.  Who invents stuff like MoviPrep?  How do you figure out what chemicals mix together to effectively clean the human equivalent of a garbage can and at the same time, remove your ability to keep the lid on it??

And while this is occurring, I’m supposed to think about filling a cup, oh, about an inch?  Really?  REALLY??

Do you think I could even manage a drop?  No.  I’d been told no more drinking at least three hours prior to arrival for procedure.  Meeting this requirement made my morning espresso a test of speed.

Turn on the De’Longhi, clear out old grounds, check to see there is still filtered water in the tank, rinse out shot glass.  Collect espresso cup from cupboard.  Wait for green-means-hot-light to turn on.  GO, GO, GO!  Watch the drip of espresso fill the cube-shaped, “Chattanooga, Tennessee” shot glass.  Dump the first shot into my espresso cup and replace to catch second shot.  Dump, sip,  burn lips, wait.  Blow on espresso.  Wait.  Sip.  Burn tongue.  Wait.

To hell with it.  If I have to reschedule, so be it.  By the time my espresso was inside my body, preventing any possibility of a caffeine headache manifesting mid-procedure, I’d passed the point-of-no-return.  Then I prayed to God I wouldn’t have to reschedule because it means another almost two full days of starvation.

You see, Morning and I?  Yeah, we aren’t friends.  We’re not on speaking terms.  We’ve never been close.  We don’t pretend to like each other for the sake of the children.  We have begrudgingly met each other at some point almost every day for the past 46 years.   Our favorite way to meet is when I outlast Night.  Even then, I avoid Morning like the plague.  My soft, thick, goose-feather down doona pulled up over my head does the trick quite nicely.  Sometimes I circumvent Morning by waking up past noon.  If I could have, I would have done so on the day in question but, alas, it was not to be.  I made darn sure Morning had to fight for my attention though!  And so, my espresso was consumed in haste and even though I drank it past the scheduled time, it did not help my attempt to collect.

I put the empty cup into the designated cupboard.  I went back out to the lobby and sat down.  I waited for my name to be called.  Within a few minutes, I was escorted into, what I learned at the end of my procedure, was both intake and recovery.

My intake nurse came over.  She was all business, confirming my name, birth date, medication allergy, etc.  She attached a white wrist band to my left arm, followed by the bright red one I’ve grown used to over the years, designating an allergy to medication.

“What happens if you take this medicine?”

“I’ll die.”

She gave me a disbelieving look.

“You can ask my pediatrician.”

She pulled a label containing this vital information off a sheet with at least 15 more labels still attached, and affixed it to one of the many documents in the folder in front of her.

“Who’s your doctor, Mrs. Smith?”

Why does everyone assume I’m married?  I’m not wearing a ring on my finger.  I’m honest on those invasive questionnaires:  Female, Divorced, White.  I feel like it’s obvious.

Smile.

“You can call me Donna. ”

Smile.

“My Doctor is Dr. X.” (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

She affixed another label to another piece of paper.

“And what procedure are you here for today, Donna?”

I raised my eyebrows.

“Um, don’t you know?”

“Oh yes, but this is just another way of determining you’re the right person.”

“Oh.  Colonoscopy.”

Is that even a real word?  Spell check always underlines it in scribbled red ink.

“And why are you having this procedure performed?”

“Still determining?”

“Oh no.  I have to fill in this blank.”

She showed me the form.  Sure enough.  There’s a blank.

“Baseline procedure.  I have a family history of colon cancer.  I’d like to live long enough to spoil any grandchildren my children may bestow upon me.  Not yet though.  They’re still way too young.”

“Great reason.”

No duh.  I didn’t roll my eyes and shake my head, but I wanted to.  I thought to myself, “Why am I angry?”  Self evaluation.  Breathe in, breathe out.  No need to externalize all this anxiety.   She’s just doing her job.

“So, Donna, were you able to collect a sample?”

“Oh no.  I tried.”

“Perhaps you should try again.”

“Nope.  There’s nothing for me to donate.”

She smiled and offered words of wisdom.

“Maybe if you turn on the faucet in the bathroom.  The sound of running water will help.”

“I appreciate your recommendation.  I’ve had four children.  Potty training is something I’m adept at.  I know all the tricks.  I have nothing to give to you.”

“Could you please try again?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

She looked around, went to the nurse’s station which is only about six strides from where I’m now laying on a hospital bed, buck naked except for the very thick, open-in-the-back, tie-at-the-neck-only hospital gown, and asked for a form.  Apparently they didn’t have what she was looking for.  I heard the word, “Disclaimer”.

She came back over to where I lay.  Another nurse – taller, older, more make-up, platinum blonde hair attempting to cover up dark brown and grey hair,  slim though – followed her.

“Mrs. Smith.  Are you pregnant?”

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

I doubled over.  Tears are spilling down out of the corners of my eyes.  I leaned back, my head against the mattress raised high behind me, trying to pull in a lungful of air.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Those poor nurses.

Blinking hard, I finally tried speaking.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

“You have..”

Full body mirth.  My shoulders are bouncing, legs jerking around, all of which are making my bed shake.

“You have to have…”

Roaring again, trying so hard to catch my breath, I pound the mattress a couple of times with my open hands.

“Oh my God!  Is that… why… you wanted…. is that why you needed… a urine sample?”

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Wiping the tears off my cheeks, still trying to breathe.

“Yes.”

Still breathing in gasps.

“You have… to have…. sex…. to get pregnant.  I haven’t had that in…”

I looked at the ceiling.  I looked at the curtain hanging between me and the patient next to me.  I looked at the tall, blonde nurse.

“Three years.”

Stunned silence.  Then a tiny lift to the corners of their mouths.  Then full on grins.

“The only way I’m pregnant is if it is an immaculate conception.  I’m not even close to pure enough for God to consider me for THAT.”

I thought to myself, and if He had?  I’m pretty sure anesthetic crossing a placenta is a no-brainer for Him.

They discussed the verbiage and added a waiver on my intake form along with an X __________. 

I signed it.

They left me to my own devices.  I pulled on the thick, blue, terry cloth slipper socks with that sticky, white stuff melted onto the bottom of the sock to prevent slipping.  I tugged on the sheet and the blanket, smoothing it out after my fit of laughter messed it all up.

The anesthesiologist came over.  She was already smiling.  Her teeth were bright white against the caramel-pudding color of her skin.  Her hair was wrapped in a paisley turban, brown and red, the brown matching exactly the color of her scrubs.  The crinkly lines at the corner of her eyes lent me to believe she had spent a lot of time smiling in her life.  I found this reassuring and could feel some of the tension leave my body as she reached for my right hand, then slid the thick rubber band around my upper arm and secured it.

“Mrs. Smith, I’ll be your anesthesiologist today.”

“You can call me Donna.”

She looked into my eyes now and smiled.

“So Donna, what are you here for today?”

I took a very deep breath and smiled.

“Colonoscopy.”

“Ah!”

She proceeded to explain her role, how the anesthesia would affect me, and what I could expect of myself for the next 24 hours.  I felt the sharp prick as she inserted the I.V. into the top of my right hand and the rubber strap being released from my arm.

Then I waited.  It wasn’t long.  I didn’t really have time to think before they were rolling me into a very crowded room.  I counted four humans, including my doctor, not including me.  The room was probably large.  But it was chock full of all kinds of equipment, rolling trays, a monitor or two, and this shiny, long, black hose.  Hose?  Tube?

I know my eyes got big as I thought about the amount of KY it would take for that sucker to move smoothly inside my body.  I closed my eyes and hoped they didn’t notice.

My anesthesiologist was putting a mask over my face and she told me she was turning on the oxygen.  Did she ask me to count backwards?

“Roll over onto your left side.  Very good.  I’m tucking a towel right here.  Lift.  Down.  Put your right arm here.”

I tucked my left arm up under the flat pillow, wiggled my shoulder, got comfortable.

Then I heard voices.  I couldn’t understand what they were saying, all I know is, I shouldn’t be hearing voices!  Dude!  I’m not supposed to KNOW what’s going on.

“Hello?  I hear you guys talking.  Hello?”

I felt a pat on my hand.

“You’re all done, Mrs. Smith.”

The voice of my anesthesiologist.  Thank God.

“Whoa!  Can you bottle that stuff so I can take it home?  I could seriously use sleep like this every night.”

I know my words must have sounded garbled but they made sense to me.

“Unusual…. Unexpected results for a woman your age.   Usually seen in someone much older.  It’s a good thing you came in today.”

Say what?

I tried to clear my head but I couldn’t, not yet.  I felt my arm being inflated while my blood pressure was taken.  I heard noises, knew they were recovery room noises after having had four c-sections, but I wanted to be coherent and I just wasn’t.  I let myself be out of it.  I felt the I.V. being removed.  I asked for another blanket which I felt being draped over my body.

Recovery is always a cold and lonely place to be.  I wished someone was there to hold my hand, to squeeze my shoulder, to kiss me on the cheek.  I’d had the boys tag team me though.  Joshua dropped me off then left for Houma for the rig.  Matthew was still at work, waiting for the nurse to let him know I was in recovery.  It was me and God.  He’d have to do.

It wasn’t long before I was sitting up and one of the nurses, I don’t remember which, was showing me photos of the inside of my very pink, clean colon.  Interesting structure this.  She pointed at a thing.  I heard the words.

“Polyp.”  “Removed.”

“Biopsy.” 

Then, “Dr. X will be over shortly.”

Shortly feels like eternity when you hear that word.  I don’t care how effervescent you are.  I don’t care how happy you are.  I don’t care if your outlook on life is rarely ever negative and you always look for the best in everybody, in every circumstance.  I don’t care if you truly believe God has a plan for your life.  Someone says, “Biopsy.”  Your world falls off its axis.

Dr. X came over.  Funny guy, Dr. X.

“So, how’s the giuealkdfsgh working for you?”

“Huh?”

Apparently the anesthesia had not quite worn off yet.  I had no idea what he was talking about.

He moved his hand around to his bum and made a scratching motion.

“Ohhh!”

“Calmoseptine?”

“Ohhhh!  Itchy butt medicine?”

“Yes, that.”

“It’s great!  No more itching.”

“It’s a good thing you came in for Itchy Ass Syndrome, Donna.”

Finally.

“Why’s that?”

“Because you had a large polyp.  But it’s gone now and we’ve sent it off to biopsy.  We’ll have your results in about a week.  Good news though!  You don’t have Ulcerative Proctitis.”

“Should I worry?”

He just looked at me.  I saw something in his eyes.  It occurred to me he may want to say yes.  Or no.

I like Dr. X.  He laughs at my  jokes.  When I first went to his office to discuss the tentative diagnosis my primary care physician had offered up, we carried on a conversation about what my boys would have to say about rectal examinations, while he gave me one.  Yeah, I know.  I can joke through anything.  I wasn’t nervous.  I just don’t see the point in making something that’s uncomfortable at best, into something unnatural, scary, unspoken.  Everyone is going to have these many times throughout their entire life.  My bum is not his first bum and it won’t be his last.

I do wonder though, how a doctor of this sort comes to the decision to examine rectums and colons.  Do they wake up one day while attending med school and determine…  “Hmmmm.  I think I want to investigate rectums every day for the rest of my life.  By golly, that’s my calling!”   I did hear the money is good.  I’m still not convinced.

Dr. X couldn’t add anything.

“My assistant will call you in about a week.  Take care, Donna.”

Off he went.

I got dressed.  I waited for Matthew.  We went to Los Cucos and ate the best, almost spicy, green salsa and chips so fresh they’re still warm.  I ordered El Panchito.  My eggplant was firm and tasty inside the breading.  It overflowed with spongy scallops and giant shrimp smothered in pico de gallo and queso.  I had refried beans on the side, not from a can.   Matthew ordered a chimichanga.  It looked delicious.  I’ve never tasted it.  I know it’s made with fajita beef  but that’s all I can tell you about that.  And he likes the Spanish Rice.  Gross.  Gag.

But that phone call I was waiting for came three days later, not seven.  The wait was short but interminable.

Benign.

Thank you, Jesus.

Dr. X’s assistant didn’t miss his parting shot though.

“Same time next year, Mrs. Smith.”

Well crap.

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