To Hell and Back: A Colonoscopy Story

My visit to Dr. Hell was prompted by blood in my stool. I was thirty-five. According to the American Cancer Society, most people should begin screening for colon and rectal cancer and polyps at age fifty. I told my wife about my slightly bloody stool, and she suggested I see a doctor about it. I didn’t want to see a doctor, but I like living, so it was an easy decision.

I asked around to see if anyone was familiar with gastroenterologists in the Monterey area, and most people agreed that if you wanted your asshole thoroughly inspected, Dr. Hell was your man. Apparently, he’s peered into some of the most importsnt anuses in Monterey County. I paid Dr, He’ll a visit in his Monterey office. With a name like Hell, I expected someone, well, more hellish, but he was anything but. Dr. Hell was clean cut, profession, l and genuinely congenial, his qualities putting me at ease for this particular adult, rite of passage.

I told him I had seen blood in my stool. I usually take a quick peek at my deuces to make sure the plumbing is sound. He was ready to start the check-up. He asked me to drop my pants. I did. He asked me to turn around and kneel over the inspecting table. I did. With my shorts and underwear dropped to my ankles, my hands crumpling the paper laid out on the table, Dr. Hell proceeded to inspect my ass. It took him only a few moments to inspect. “It looks like you have some small, external hemorrhoids, but it’s worth getting a closer look,” he said. By the time I was done buttoning my shorts, Dr. Hell was already scheduling my colonoscopy. Because there’s a significant amount of prep time involved in a colonoscopy, we chose Monday as a good day to have the procedure.

Along with instructions for my prep time, Dr. Hell handed me two small, plastic bottles, about the size of hotel shampoo, and told me to drink one on Sunday morning and the other on the morning of the procedure. I was also ordered not ingest any food beginning on Sunday morning and until after the procedure. I ate like a pig on Saturday, knowing that I was going to go without food for over twenty-four hours. I have a pretty high threshold for pain, but not for hunger.

On Sunday morning, I drank the first of the two bottles of gut salvage saline formulation. These are fancy medical terms for laxatives that induce major shits and Hershey squirts. Sunday was not a normal day. I was confined to our tiny apartment for the entire day because I going to the toilet every ten-minutes. The shits just kept coming and the pain was gut wrenching, pun intended. My asshole was chafed, too, and it got to the point where I could no longer wipe because of the burn. Instead, by Sunday afternoon, I had to resort to patting my anus with a sizeable wad of Charmin because wiping was out of the question. My mind looked ahead to the other bottle I was to drink the next morning, and I began to think that maybe Dr. Hell was actually the devil. There was no way that another bottle was going to clean me out any more than I was already. My nighttime toilet sittings produced nothing but air, like dry heaves, as I was completely hollow. Nevertheless, I did what the doctor ordered, and on Monday morning, I reluctantly downed the other bottle of saline formula.

Guen drove to Dr. Hell’s office. It was a must. I would be under anesthesia for the procedure, and there are other powerful drugs involved, so I wouldn’t be in any shape to drive when it was done. I have to admit that I was a little nervous. This was the first major, medical procedure I’ve ever had, and didn’t know what to expect. Luckily, Dr. Hell’s entire staff was superb in helping to calm my nerves. A female nurse was my first contact. It was her job to make sure I was properly set for the procedure, which meant being dressed in a gown and having the IV’s placed into my left arm—there were three—and to make sure I was aware of what was to take place. I asked her if there was any pain involved, and she said, “No, not really. It’s pretty standard. Most people don’t remember a thing because of the drugs.” I said, “Oh, not me. I’ll be awake. It takes a lot to knock me out.” “Oh, ok. We’ll see,” she said.

I was looking up at the ceiling and lights, taking in the ringing phones and busy voices, as they rolled me into the spacious room where the procedure was going to happen. The nurse parked me right under a massive set of floodlights, another then a small team of nurses took over. They plugged the drug lines into the IV’s and engaged me in small talk. My nerves were as calm as they would get, which is to say I was still feeling a bit anxious.

A few minutes later, Dr. Hell threw open the double doors, walked into the room like a king, and said, “How we doing, Mark? Did the drugs kick in yet?” It was a pretty impressive entrance, one I’ve often tried at home with my family, but it never impresses anyone. “To be honest with you, doc,” I said. “I’m still pretty awake. I don’t feel sleepy or anything.” I really didn’t feel the effect of the meds. I wasn’t joking when I said it takes a lot to knock me out. “Well, give him some more drugs then!” he said as he turned and walked out. “I’ll be back in a few minutes, Mark.” “Ok, doc,” I said.

“Ok,” the nurse said, “we’re going to give you more drugs, Mark.” I said, “Ok,” and this is the last thing I remember.

At one point during the procedure, I awoke. I was on my left side. I opened my eyes, and hanging directly in front of me was 60” plasma, flat screen television, all in HD. There was a live image of a camera probing a fleshy cavern, and immediately my mind began to make sense of it. “Is that the inside of my ass? Oh, shit!” I whispered to myself as I once again fell into a deep sleep.

The next thing I remember is that I’m in the corner of the nurses’ station sucking on a straw plugged into a kid’s juice cup. I felt eighty-years-old, sitting there sort of helpless, unsure as to where I was and what I was doing there. One of the nurses noticed that I was awake, and she asked if I was ok. I told her I was ok. A few minutes later, Dr. Hell came up to me to ask the same. “He said, “Well, Mark. You’re ass looks great. You have some small hemorrhoids but nothing major. All systems are go, and you are all clear. I won’t see you again until you’re fifty.” “That’s good news, doc,” I said. Thank you for everything. I appreciate it.”

You know that happy feeling you get when you get a check-up and the doctor tells you everything’s ok? Well, I was happy like that. And I can tell people that I’ve been to Hell and back.

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