This is it. I can hear you settling in with a packet of chips and a glass of wine. This is the blog post you have been waiting for, right?
Earlier this week I was lucky enough to experience an Austrian colonoscopy. These things are important, see? So if you need one, don’t put it off. Go and get it done!
And it’s not like I went and had it done just to write this blog post, but it was a very different experience from the one I had in Oz 10 years ago. So… I thought… why not?
And this is how it went:
A week before:
- Head to the doctor for mandatory blood test
- Have no idea why you would need one, but trust the doctors and enjoy the needle prick
- Read and sign three pages of German doctor garble
- Pass the test (somewhere in those 3 pages of garble) and have a one-on-one with a lovely friendly doctor, nod in the right places
- Choose your favourite laxative (I took option 1):
- Natural: down 3 litres of potion water the morning of your procedure
- Chemical: take a dose of potion in the evening and a dose in the morning
- Decide if you want an injection during the procedure so you can be unawares (because here in Austria, it’s possible to do it without any anaesthetic at all) – BTW, I took the injection!
In Australia, there was no blood test (that I can remember), no choice of laxative (I just got the powder and instructions) and no optional anaesthesia – I was completely knocked out in Oz… no memory from after I was wheeled in to the operating theatre until the nurse was asking me gently not to stand on the bed to put my pants on – yeah, those are the good drugs.
Then… the crazy diet:
- A week before: no grains or anything with seeds – how on earth am I going to cope without my breakfast muesli???
- Five days before: no fruit, salad or vegetables, except cooked potatoes – WTF??? I mean, for some people this would be heaven, but I like salad and veggies! Still, that doesn’t take out wine, chips, chocolate, white bread or schnitzel… so I didn’t really suffer
- From 12 noon the day before: you may eat NOTHING until after the procedure – I think the thought of this is actually worse than the doing – once you tell yourself you’re not allowed to eat, you kind of just let it go (in between random pangs of hunger)
From what I can remember of my experience in Oz, while there was a definite no eating policy at some point the day before, I definitely don’t remember being so drastically restricted.
Then… the day of:
- 2:13am: Wake after dreaming of drinking scary laxative potion
- 2:36am: Wake again, more dreams of laxative potion
- 3:13am: Again awake, another dream
- 3:48am: and so on… and so on…
- 5:00am: Actual alarm goes off – wake in a panic – it’s time! Jump out of bed, prepare laxative potion, drink a heap, think: “that wasn’t so bad…”
- 5:05am: Am so tired… want to get back in bed… can’t risk falling asleep… surf internet, text friends, read, wait… wait… wait
- 5:40am: First litre down… I’m killing it
- 5:50am: Struggling to get the second litre into me… it tastes much worse now
- 6:10am: Laxative starts working
- 6:20am: And every 5-10 minute interval after that… toilet time… you know how it works
- 6:50am: 1 hour 10 to go… one litre left
- 7:50am: Have finally choked down the last litre – feeling victorious… and empty
- 8:20am: Attempt to do my physio exercises
- 8:23am: Bail on physio exercises… crunches are a bad idea right now
- 9:00am: Shower, feel strangely normal
- 9:30am: Head to doctor’s office
My Australian experience of this was a little different. Firstly I started on the laxative the day before, and finished it in the morning. So I’m guessing it was more like option 2 above. The plus for this was that I didn’t have to get up at 5am, but the downside was that waking up in the middle of the night multiple times to use the bathroom means little sleep anyway.
Finally… the procedure
Unlike in Oz, where I went to the hospital, gowned up and answered about a million questions before waiting for them to get to me, in Austria it was done in a back room of the doctor’s office. I
was straight in at 10am, whipped off my pants and got on the table (albeit slowly, I had to ask them to repeat everything twice – they were all talking GERMAN and I was FREAKING OUT!)
In went the injection and I smiled drowsily and waited to enter the Twilight Zone.
But lucky me… because THERE WAS NO FREAKING TWILIGHT ZONE!
I mean, I felt spacy, but apparently my colon is very twisty… which meant that they had to blow lots of air up my ass, and squeeze my tummy like nothing else to get the camera in. It was so painful. I was whimpering and swearing and almost crying like a little kid.
Luckily, that part didn’t last very long. But when they announced they were finished I was still curled up in a ball writhing in pain. The nurse reassured me it would go away soon and told me to push really hard… yeah, they wanted me to fart. It’s something I’m generally pretty good at… but on this particular day… no such luck. So I shuffled home partially hunched over, feeling the effects of the sedative, and rolled into bed. Thankfully, nature eventually ran its course, the air came out and the pain lessened substantially.
So… in comparison
Well, I certainly preferred the actual procedure in Australia, where I remember nothing, and it was completely pain free, but the swiftness with which the whole thing was done in Austria was a definite plus. You get your results right then and there… all clear for me.
I would be happy if I never had to have one again. But I’d still rather have the option… so if there’s another one on the cards for me in the future… I’m all in.