Health

The Twilight Zone: Why I Couldn't Wait to Have a Colonoscopy

Anesthesia was my first 'high' in more than ten years

Traveling through another dimension.

Not many people get terribly excited about their first colonoscopy, but I had good reason. While I was dreading the prep, I was really looking forward to the drugs. This was going to be my first “high” since becoming clean and sober ten years ago, and I heard that the liquid Demerol they gave you was kind of awesome.

The good news was that, according to my sponsor and most of the guys in my favorite Friday night AA group, it was going to be a freebie. Sitting on the couch with your painful feelings and not medicating was one thing, but enduring the intrusion of something being snaked up your butt is quite another. Plus, no one seemed to believe that anesthesia was the gateway to falling off the wagon.

I scheduled my appointment for first thing in the morning, figuring the sooner I got it over with, the sooner I could eat. Not to mention the sooner I went in, the sooner I’d find myself floating around in the ethers of nirvana.

But by 10:00 AM I’d been in the “procedure” room for almost two hours — wearing a gown, with nothing covering the proposed area of invasion. All I was left to do was sit on the cold, rustling tissue paper and feel my feelings, which escalated from giddy anticipation of the free high to abject terror. Just a few feet away from me sat a malevolent-looking, gleaming metal tube, at least three inches in diameter (ouch!) and four feet long (arrgh!) Not to mention all the monitors, instruments and the type of attachments that looked like they belonged on the end of an upright vacuum cleaner.

“Oh. My. God. What if I wake up?” I said to myself. “I’m gonna wake up! I know I’m gonna wake up!” I was spiraling out of control.

Finally, the gastroenterologist and his team burst through the double doors. The doctor, who was so nice and Doogie Howser-ish the week before, now seemed like the devil incarnate. The anesthesiologist, my imagined co-conspirator, looked stern and sadistic. Thank goodness for the nurse, a heavy Jamaican woman, who was warmly smiling down at me.

“Sorry we kept you waiting so long,” she said. “We had an emergency. Do you have any questions before we begin, Mr. Wolf?” Mr. Wolf? I looked around. Was my father in the room?

“No questions, but … you see, I have a very high resistance to anesthesia. And if you read my chart, I haven’t had a drink or any kind of drug in ten years,” I explained. “I’m really a little freaked out right now, so could you give me like maybe a minute or two of ‘twilight’ to enjoy before the lights go out? Then, promise me you’ll knock me out really hard, OK?”

“Of course, Jeffrey,” said the anesthesiologist, who immediately seemed less scary because he had called me by my first name. “Now I’m going to insert this needle and when you feel it go in, start counting backwards from 100. OK, here we go … 100, 99, 98, 97 …”

Suddenly, I was breaking through shards of consciousness. The light that was hurtling towards me was blinding.

“NURSE! NURSE!” I slurred. “More sedation! More sedation!”

“But dear, you’re in recovery,” she said, smiling.

“NO, NO, it’s OK! My AA sponsor said so!”

“You’re in the recovery room, dear,” she said, a knowing smile in her eyes.

Oh.

A little while later, after I’d finished my applesauce, the doctor came by with his report.

“Good news, Mr. Wolf,” he chirped. Again with my father. “Everything looks just fine. Which means I won’t be seeing you again for about another three years.”

A clean bill of health and something to look forward to. Good news indeed.