The Exam You Never Want to Have


colonoscopy runwayBut you might want to start, with your first exam (if you’re an average healthy person) around the age of 50…Here’s what you’ve got to look forward to…

They were all lined up, each on a gurney, groggily coming out of it, being asked “What do you want…apple juice…cranberry…cranberry/grape?” And I sat, taking it all in. Machines were blinking all about with occasional hazard warnings…someone’s blood pressure dropped…This one isn’t reviving as quickly.

Staff wheeled occupied gurneys into inner chambers and returned with vacant ones.

In the recovery room, I heard the same old mantra:  “Now, Mr. So-and-So, you’ll feel the desire to pass gas…” I want you to go ahead and do that. You need to get that out of you…It’s a result of the colonoscopy when we pumped air into you.”

All the while I am sitting there, thinking “No, please don’t pass any more gas. Right now, this place is like a tinder box…a magazine of potential and lethal explosives, waiting to be activated. If a spark is set off in here, we’re all goners….”

Such is the reality of the colonoscopy world.

My husband later asked:  “Why would a doctor specialize in this, when he or she has so many other choices?” For instance, why not go into treating ear, nose and throat problems or something equally banal (Note I didn’t say  ‘anal’?) “Why a career in looking up people’s butts all day?” he wondered “What’s the lure?”

I offered it could be that a doctor in this line could control his hours.  After all, colonoscopies are set up in advance; they usually perform those procedures earlier in the day (cut-off around 3:00 PM?), etc. But to tell the truth—I really didn’t know why someone would select this particular area of concentration.

But I know this—Colonoscopies are BIG business.  Ever since TV star, Katie Couric’s oh-so-public procedure several years ago, stressing the importance of having them as regular care.  Her husband had died of colon cancer.  But even cute Katie Couric can’t put a pretty face on something that looks into the deepest part of one’s anatomy.

My husband lay all hooked up when they brought me into him. You see, he worried them. When everyone else has blood pressure spikes, following surgery, his BP descends and staff were keeping him, to elevate it, before they discharged him. 

His last reading?  98 over 41 and they look concerned….The doctor came in, noted it and said he’d return to check him again, shortly, before he discharged him.

I knew what that meant:  He had another colonoscopy on the runway…I knew, too, it’d be at least an hour before we were out of there.

But I’m bad….I’ve promised us earlier that we’d go to our favorite breakfast spot to get a waffle topped off with strawberries and powdered sugar, along with a side of well-done bacon, after this procedure.  The problem? That breakfast shop closed in an hour.  The clock was ticking.

I asked the nurse:  “Can’t he recover in the car?” Answer—A strange disbelieving look, from her, suggesting I don’t care about my mate’s safety.  So, I told her the waffle plan…

I also informed her that a low pulse is “his thing”….After all, he’s the same guy who heads over to the BP cuff, in drugstores, ramps up his sleeves and then calls out for all to hear:  “It’s 110 over 60,” with as much pride as if it’s a high IQ.

I don’t do that with mine…In fact, I steer clear of all monitoring equipment.

Years ago, he and I checked each other’s pulses (we’re strange with the things that pique our interest) and his went bump………..bump……….bump, while mine went bump.bump.bump.bump….4 pumps to his 2.

Meaning?  His system’s way more efficient than mine. Then, too, he’s been an athlete all his life, mostly jogging and keeping fit. He’s lean (170 lbs and that stays same all the time-a maddeningly reality, for me who’s added weight over the years.

So, I wasn’t too concerned about his low pulse…..But the hospital refused to be placated…Finally, when his reading reached 101 over 59, they waived us free (hospitals are like that—They have a threshold they’re waiting for.)

Anyway, he’s cleared for 5 more years before his next one.  By that point, the crush of Baby Boomers will hit the medical market, and the colonsocopy runway will be more crowded than ever. 

Then, they’ll really need those flag guys that stand out on airport grounds, directing, when they bring the bumper-to-bumper gurneys through….And you Millennials?  They’ll probably devise self-scoping instruments like home pregnancy tests, by the time you need….

Question:  Had your own colonoscopy? Your thoughts (keep ’em clean, please♥)Paddles_ww2_bw

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A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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