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Procedure Not Too Bad in the End

Jan Chait

April 26, 2011

“Did you suspend your pump?” the nurse asked.

“I did earlier because I was low, but I started it back up,” I responded.

He turned a shade or two white. I was there to have a couple of “procedures” that would last about an hour, and pulling a hypoglycemic moment is apparently a no-no in the wonderful world of outpatient surgery.

“Look,” I said, showing him my continuous glucose monitor. “Ninety-seven. See? I’m fine.”

“But I’d feel better…” he started to say.

“Do you know how an insulin pump works?” I demanded, kind of getting in his face.

“Um, er…”

“Do you remove the pancreas of people who don’t have diabetes before surgery?” I continued.

He took a step back. “Uh, no.”

“Then leave. My. Pump. Alone.”

End of discussion.

I was in the outpatient surgery center to have an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. These procedures were the first volleys in an attempt to figure out why I continue to run a temperature and why my white blood cell and platelet counts are up and my red blood cell count is down. I don’t know why the doctor started with that. I mean, my red count is barely down, whereas my white count and platelets are way high.

But whatever. He said he wanted to see if there was bleeding in my stomach or colon that could account for the anemia, but the fact that I’d never had a colonoscopy may have had something to do with it, too.

So I should have had my first colonoscopy when I was 50. I was only 12 years past due. (Oops!) My husband was teasing me about having a colonoscopy until I smiled sweetly and reminded him he had never had one, either — and he’s older than I. That shut him up, ’cause I can nag.

What stopped me from having one before? Aside from the embarrassment of exposing my most private parts to a stranger, I mean? It was the tales I’d heard of the preparation. All who’d had a colonoscopy agreed that the procedure itself was nothing: You’re asleep. But the prep?

There were tales of drinking a gallon of a nasty, thick, super-laxative. Of being unable to get more than 10 feet from the bathroom. Of getting no sleep. And, of course, you can’t have any solid foods and we all like to eat.

But I didn’t get a gallon of thick, nasty stuff. I got two 6-ounce bottles of a clear liquid that you mixed with 10 ounces of water. I drank one at 5 PM one evening and one at 6 AM the next morning. Admittedly, it was nasty. I chugged as much as I could, then ate some gelatin dessert. It took about four chugs to empty the glass. Then you have to drink 32 ounces of water over the next hour, but it doesn’t seem like so much if you drink two 16-ounce bottles of water that have been chilled in the refrigerator.

As for the lack of real food, I find that a hot drink — especially chicken broth — takes care of the hunger pangs. Aside from that, I had the gelatin, white grape juice that I used to make spritzers using sugar-free clear soda, and that was about it, although there was a list of other things I could have had.

Urgency to go to the bathroom? Not a problem, except for once the morning of the procedure and it wasn’t so bad I couldn’t make it. I got plenty of sleep and didn’t even need the books I’d loaded onto my e-reader.

Frequency was a bit of a problem, but mainly in terms of some rawness from wiping, even though I used wet wipes instead of tissue.

Another part of my prep was to go online and see what I could find about colonoscopies. If you want to learn more, there’s a free download of “Colonoscopy for Dummies.”

All in all, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I did find out I have gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach) and the doctor removed nine polyps from my colon. I kind of got from his expression that nine is a lot. Maybe I should have had that colonoscopy earlier.

One of Dad’s brothers died from an ulcer and Dad almost did, so I need to take that gastritis seriously, even though I have no symptoms. Dad also had to have surgery for something to do with polyps, or a polyp, in his colon. I should pay more attention to family history. (Thanks, Dad.)

Oh, and one more thing. The best. After the procedure, you get praised for passing gas. What a great ending!



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