July 10, 2007

Gut feelings

It was a strange coincidence that my daughter Marie and I had colonoscopies just a few days apart. She had the traditional kind and I had the virtual kind.

I thought I was avoiding the pain that I experienced a decade ago with the traditional kind. I remember waking up during the procedure and feeling sharp pain as the doctor tried to force a tube around a bend in my intestine. It was painful and alarming. I was relieved when they gave up, the doctor saying they had gone far enough anyway.

Several times since then I was told by doctors to repeat the exam. One time I scheduled it and later cancelled. I figure my occasional tummy pains are due to food sensitivities anyway, so why go through the trouble and risk of a colonoscopy.

When I learned that Winchester (VA) offers virtual colonoscopy, I convinced the doctor that it was the only way I would take the exam. He was not that keen on it but gave me the paperwork. The folks at Winchester Imaging were very helpful, although Fenton (not his real name) gave me the wrong prep liquid. Fortunately I read the instructions ahead of time and called their office to see if I was missing something. The sent me the correct medications and even a box of "low-residue" food for the day before.

I had to substitute for some of the foods because of allergies, and the technician advised me on what I could eat instead. It was more than just the clear liquid diet than I had last time, so I was pleased, although I had to buy white rice since the brown rice that I had in the cupboard would not do. (Fiber is a no-no.)

So until the medicine I took at night, I did well. But that bitter liquid tasted like poison. Later I took some pills. And later I had diarrhea until 4:00 in the morning. So I was tired, thirsty, and uncomfortable when we got to Winchester.

Fortunately I didn't have to wait long. The test is a CT scan and would be easy except that they fill the colon with gas so that the images are complete. Gas can be painful, and the amount used for this exam caused me plenty of pain. I found myself wishing I had chosen the traditional method. But it was over fairly quickly and I was able to leave as soon as I got dressed.

Would I recommend it? Well, that depends. If you have zero tolerance of pain, no. It does not require anesthesia and that means less risk but possible pain. Hopefully in future the process will be improved.

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