A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Colonoscopy

I had a colonoscopy on Friday, and let me start out by saying that the results were basically fine. I have mixed feelings about writing on this topic, this being a garden blog and all (annuals, biennials, colonoscopies … wait, something doesn’t fit here). However, there is a moral to this story that in the end I wanted to share.

monty python pipes 1

So there I was in the GI lab, lying on my side, and the nurse tells me they’re about to administer the sedative. Suddenly there is a hot, painful sensation in my arm with the IV needle. Now, this was the third time I have been through this procedure and this pain in the arm was a new experience.

Like a dummy, I didn’t say anything. I am one of those people who absorbed the lesson early in life that enduring pain without complaint is a sign of moral superiority. Deep in the primitive part of my brain I firmly believe that at some point i will get a medal for suffering in silence, or at the very least a round of applause.

rue des martyrs

Anyway, some minutes later the doctor asks me if I’m feeling sleepy. He’s experienced in his field with a reputation for being highly competent. I say no. He says something to the effect of: Give him another dose.

And then we’re off to the races, the doctor humming some tune that I can’t identify. Except I’m still not sleepy. In fact, I begin to experience discomfort, then pain. Eventually it’s enough pain that I can’t keep quiet any more. I start grunting and then muttering bad words. 

The doctor is puzzled. He asks how much sedative I’ve been given, apparently it is a lot. I think he says to give me another dose, I’m not sure. And we keep going, him still humming something that was melodic only in his own mind.

Eventually they finish the procedure (it takes 30-40 minutes, I think). And only then do they realize that my right forearm, the one with the IV needle, is swollen and red. Apparently the IV needle had moved, or perhaps had been inserted wrong, and so the sedative didn’t go into my vein. The doctor and other staff apologize profusely.

At this point I’m just glad it’s over. They wrap my arm in something, and I am left to recover. 

The moral of the story is this: pain, especially in this context, is a symptom of something wrong, not a test of your virtue. There will be no medal or applause in recognition of your stoicism. Or if there is, I’m still waiting for it. And I know that some of you share this delusion (you know who you are). It may be that most of you are guys, but I’m not sure.

So if something hurts unexpectedly, especially while you’re undergoing some kind of medical procedure, I highly recommend not keeping quiet about it. I could have avoided a lot of unpleasantness if I had done so at the very beginning.

monty python pipes 2

A little postscript. When the doctor came back some time later to debrief Judy and I, he gave us color photos of the two little non-cancerous polyps he had found in my intestines. Modern technology makes this possible, I guess. He seemed quite proud of the pictures, as if they were of his favorite grandchildren. I’m glad he is so enthusiastic about his work, but personally I didn’t feel any need for a memento of the experience.

33 Comments on “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Colonoscopy”

  1. Heck of a way to find out that you’re fine. I am something of a wimp so it’s unlikely that I’d be as stoic as you were in that situation. But thank you for the lesson, which I’ll try to remember for other applications (like lower back pain after a hour of shoveling mulch…)

  2. I love that you tagged this Pointless Martyrdom. So funny! I’m glad you’re ok but wish you’d spoken up. But it seems like the staff should have been observant enough to realize all was not well. After damaging my shoulder hauling rocks and compost, I now ask for help when I feel it start to twinge, which makes my husband feel useful.

  3. Oh, that was not a funny thing at all, although your telling of it was. I tend to keep quiet and endure too, and I’m not a guy. I’ve never had a colonoscopy, although I really should have by now. I’ve been putting it off. Your tale doesn’t make me eager.

  4. I’m deeming this a wise and courageous post, Jason. And written with your wonderfully rye voice.

    Let me share that I think there are really good reasons for gardeners to hear your message: Don’t ignore pain. Stoicism looks best on ancient Vikings and has no place in the garden. Ignoring pain (like my recent dismissal of plantar fasciitis) can have some longer lasting consequences.

    Keep up the great work. It’s no wonder you have such a steadfast following.

  5. Well I’m glad to hear that you will no longer suffer in silence!! Good to know that all is well with you too, OUCH re the arm, seriously you would think someone would have wondered why the blooming drug wasn’t working!!! I tend to be like you, I never complain, mainly because they just get narky and rougher!xxx

  6. I am so sorry this happened to you. I had a similar experience with an IV and after about the 5th stick I opened my mouth as they could not get it in right. You are so right on this lesson and it is one that we need to teach our kids. Glad it is over for you Jason…..now on to a wonderful gardening week!! Nicole

  7. Yikes! Glad your health is fine, but so sorry you had to go through that. Good lesson about speaking up. I have a long story about extensive X-rays being ordered up for dental appointment. Long story short: They thought I needed to have my wisdom teeth analyzed. But my wisdoms were pulled when I was 20! Good thing I spoke up and said, “Do you really need another set of X-rays!” When I was younger, I would have gone along with the procedure and not questioned it. Now, if something doesn’t seem right, I speak up! It can be embarrassing, but it’s always good to question. Take care!

  8. Did they at least give you extra post-procedure candy?!!! Wow. I was awake for mine in spite of extra drugs, but no real pain. I don’t want to even imagine what yours was like. Great lesson! Speak up because doctors and nurses can’t intuit stuff like that. By the way, LOVE the images you chose for this post!

  9. I enjoyed your humorous recounting of what is usually not a very pleasant experience, but I’m sorry you had to endure this. You would think someone would have noticed your swollen arm earlier. I used to be the martyr, too, but then I learned from my dentist to speak up when something hurts, so I usually do now. I’m jealous, though–I’ve never gotten pictures to take home:)

  10. I love the accompanying artwork with your post. At my last colonoscopy, I had almost the opposite problem. Sedation went fine, the procedure was fine, and they complimented me on my “excellent prep”. However, after the procedure was over they had a very difficult time getting me to come around, blood pressure dropped way too low, and I was burning up, but could not express my discomfort. An alert nurse became my new best friend.

  11. I am smiling and at the same time a bit angry or maybe scared along the way reading your post. It is good that you are a very good writer as it seems okay, but the truth is the doctor is not commendable. He is irresponsible for me.

    I had colonoscopy too, but here it is administered with you in full sleep, so when i woke up i didn’t feel anything at all. I didn’t know i was there for more than an hour. My friend in New Zealand had colonoscopy too, and the nurses and doctors there she said, are very kind. She was also given so much food to eat there before allowed to go. If i write so well like you, i will also write mine!

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