My check-in time is 8:00am. No way I want to be late. It’s been 15 years since I last did this, so I’m a little nervous about the whole thing. I roll into the parking lot at St. Francis Hospital at 7:36. It’s a five-minute walk inside to the second floor. The doors to the Surgical Care Unit are locked and I get the uneasy feeling that I’m in the wrong place.
I’m here for a screening. I’m not having any symptoms, but when you get to be my age, the Doc thinks he ought to take a look at the old colon just to be sure everything is “clean”. And by clean, he means squeaky clean. No funky kinks. No pockets. No abrasions. Nothing growing that shouldn’t be there.
Three days ago, I started a strict diet to make the cleaning out process go a little smoothly. No nuts and fiber. No vegetables or salads. I had a massive Ribeye steak on the grill Thursday evening, medium well. Red potatoes with butter and garlic salt. Corn on the cob. It was like a last meal at Alcatraz.
Saturday, I could have grilled fish or chicken and rice. Not too bad. Dairy products were off the menu. One of my buddies offered me a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit for breakfast. I had to turn it down.
He put it in front of me. “Sorry, I’m on a restricted diet.”
I explained the procedure and he offered his sympathies.
By the time I got to Sunday, I was on liquids only, including the concoction designed by intelligence agents at Guantanamo for interrogation purposes. Besides the infliction of bloated abdominal pain, its job is to flush out every gram of left-over rice from the digestive tract. During the final 8 hours of the day and into the wee hours of the morning, one does not stray far from the facilities.
If you’ve been here, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t hit at least 50 yet, then . . . Bahaha! Your day is coming.
The lady in the blue jump suit finally unlocks the door at 8:00am sharp. She can’t find a file on me.
“Who are you here to see?”
‘I have a procedure with Dr. Adams this morning. I was told to be here at 8:00.”
“Oh honey, you need to be over at Endoscopy. Go down the hall past the elevators, through the glass doors. Walk through the parking deck. Go past the valet parking. Take the doors on your left and go up to the 2nd floor.”
What a goofball! I am in the wrong place.
I still manage to check in by 8:10. Good thing I made it early. They finally call me back at 10am.
Brittney is a nice young RN. It says so on her name tag. The RN part. The nice part is evident in way she handles the tricky barrage of personal questions.
“Have you had anything to eat or drink since midnight?”
“No ma’am.” I was not about to mess this up.
“Did you finish the prep work?”
“Yes ma’am. Finished the last 8 ounces about 7 last night.”
We play Q & A for several more minutes.
“I’m going to pull the curtain for you while you change into your robe.”
She has two final words of advice for me. “You can keep your socks on. Make sure the opening is in the back.”
I think I know where the opening belongs for this particular procedure.
No matter how much effort they make, there is little privacy in the medical world. You sign 14 documents protecting your personal medical information, and yet you lay out on a gurney in the skin God gave you with nothing more than a thin curtain between you and a dozen of your close procedural friends in the pre-op bullpen. I hear every conversation between every patient and nurse and anesthesiologist.
There’s army-brat-guy who has lived in every state in the union and six foreign countries in his life. Right on the other side of the curtain is Tracy, retired church secretary. She’s having unbearable trouble with acid reflux. Then there’s Mr. John who describes for Brittney, in great detail, his explosive gastric issues that have become a matter of great concern for his wife.
After a few minutes, I get an IV inserted into the back of my right hand. Brittney comes in with a blanket for cover. “You’ll like this,” she says. The blanket feels like a warm embrace. It reminds me of the times I’ve carried clothes from the dryer through the living room and plopped them down on top of Beth sitting on the couch so she could hug the warmth. I have to say, it cheered me up.
I check my watch. It’s 11:00. The timing here is not great. But what am I going to do about it? My stomach feels like it’s been abandoned. I can’t quit thinking about pancakes for some reason.
I hear movement on the other side of the curtain next to me. Tracy is getting wheeled off to her meeting with fate. But she came in after me, and I’m thinking maybe they’ve forgotten I should be next. It’s like getting the corner table at the restaurant and watching a family, who got seated way after I did, get served before the waitress even takes my order. Do they even remember that I’m here?
I’ve already mentioned this, but the one thing you never want to do is mess up on the prep-work. You go through all this effort to get clean only to be turned away because you thought you could get away with cheating just a little bit.
I hear a very stern male voice from a few curtains down. “Mrs. Jones, I’m afraid we’re going to have to reschedule your procedure.” I’m guessing they tried the scope and found evidence of cheating. “You had some baked chicken and rice yesterday, didn’t you?” I can only imagine the look on her face. Like being called into the principal’s office in third grade. “We’ll get you set up for next Monday.” After she was gone, I hear the nurses talking, “I hope she really enjoyed that chicken and rice.”
They finally rolled me into the room around 11:15. They got me on my left side for the official positioning. “You should feel a bit of a tingle about now.” I muttered, “Yep.” And the lights went out.
I came to in a heavy fog. The Doc is telling me that everything is clean as a whistle. Brittney brags on how well I did. “Mr. Chappell, you passed a lot of gas and you’re ready to go home. We called your daughter and she’ll be here in a few minutes to get you home.” This is the only place on earth no one frowns on public flatulence.
This may not be the procedure anyone wants, but it’s good to know that I can whistle Dixie for a few more years. And the pancakes and bacon at IHOP are excellent, even for an early afternoon snack.