Thursday, February 13, 2014

No. 112 – Like a Hurricane

Performer: Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: American Stars ’n Bars
Year: 1977
Definitive Version: Weld, 1991.

As I write this, I’m scheduled to once again become intimate with a gastroentrologist’s scope in the near future. My first such encounter came at the tender age of 27 during a major rebirth in my interest in Neil Young.

I’d had stomach problems, or at least really noticeable ones, since high school. Back then I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, and like most teen-agers would, I did nothing to help it. I kept eating McDonald’s, fried food and pizza like it was my birthright.

I stopped drinking Coke in 1990, because it made me feel jittery and nauseous, but kept right on going otherwise. I ate DiGel pills and didn’t look back. But in 1991, it seemed my bowel was more irritable than ever before.

I went to a nearby doctor without any regard to his credentials or whether he was a good fit. Back then, going to a doctor was something you did, not something you shopped for. Before I knew it, I’m on the table, and after an exam of, shall we say a private nature, he wants to give me a barium enema.

If you’re in any way skittish about getting a colonoscopy, don’t ever, ever, EVER get a barium enema. Of course, I didn’t know what it was, and there wasn’t an Internet back then to check it out online. OK. He gave me a prescription for a laxative, because I had to clean myself out beforehand.

Well, if I had problems before, you can imagine the effect the laxative had. It was miserable to the point where I stopped before I should have. That misery wasn’t even proper preparation for the procedure itself. Oh my God. I was in pain almost from the second the liquid flowed into me to the end of the procedure—an excruciating two to three minutes later that felt like hours where I had to hold in the liquid while the doctor snapped images of my colon.

I remember looking at the images of my colon afterward, and although I had no real indication of what I was seeing, even I could tell it didn’t look right. The doctor said he was going to send me to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy to make sure I didn’t have anything serious. So the point of the barium enema was … what exactly, doc, besides the obviousness—that you’re a sadist?

Feeling that it couldn’t possibly be any worse than what I just went through—and not wanting to learn I had colon cancer too late—I agreed. I was given a prescription for a different type of laxative to clean myself out beforehand. Great.

I took the day off from work, which was necessary not only for the need to have a (private) bathroom nearby, but also for the sheer duration of time the preparation requires. Anyone who has had a colonoscopy knows this, but basically the prescription was for a medication and a gallon-size jug. You mix the powder into water in the jug and then drink all of it. Not at once, of course, that would be silly. Instead, you drink it in eight-ounce servings every half-hour until it’s gone—and so is anything in your digestive system.

That’s bad enough as is. What’s worse is that this stuff tastes like … well, I’ve never tasted crap, but it can’t be much worse than this stuff. What’s particularly miserable is the parceling out, so the disgustingness lasts for hours. The first two glasses are bad but easily chugged down. By the fifth, you’re doing what you can to choke it down. At that point, you still have 11 glasses to go. UGH!

I tried, but I couldn’t finish it all, although I powered through most of it. It seemed to have had the necessary effect, and I felt I’d suffered enough already.

I couldn’t drive myself to the gastroenterologist in Waterford the next day, so I had Dave take me in the afternoon. Compared with the barium enema and the dual preparations, in all sincerity, the colonoscopy itself was a cakewalk.

They gave me nothing stronger than a local anesthetic and a valium to chill me out. Unlike my second such procedure, I was awake and alert the entire time. It felt a bit strange having the scope snaking up inside me, but it wasn’t painful. If the hot assistant had comforted me properly during it, the procedure might even have been pleasant.

The short finale to the long story: They didn’t find anything troubling. There was no need for further procedures or medication. I should just be careful about what I eat, which, of course, I ignored. (I might no longer have been a teen, but I was no less an idiot.)

I felt pretty good at this point, not shaky or light-headed or anything. Hey, isn’t that cool flea market that Bill told us about that has all those card dealers just down the road? Why, yes it is. Let’s go. Well, twist Dave’s arm. After what I’d gone through the past week, I’d darned well earned some card chicanery.

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