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This Summer's Big Event
Written August 10, 2022


One of my favorite jobs used to be providing graphics for local high school football telecasts.  During the week I'd gather and organize stats and lineups and images; then I'd report to the TV truck on Friday and work the live show.  The next day, I'd relax and start looking forward to the next week's game.

But now I'm retired, and the biggest production lately involved a colonoscopy.  This would be my third.  They found nine polyps in 2012 and another one in 2017; now another five years had passed, and it was time to check again.

Having a camera shoved up one's rectum sounds quite painful, doesn't it?  On TV sitcoms, the concept is played for uncomfortable laughs.  But it's not that bad, really, thanks for drugs.  During my first colonoscopy I was sedated and barely aware of what was happening, and for the two subsequent procedures I've been completely unconscious.

People say the hard part is the day before.  Starting 24 hours before the examination, no solid food can be consumed, only clear liquids.  But I'm now a senior citizen 75 years old, and my appetite isn't what it used to be, so this was no problem for me.  I had a cup of bouillon for lunch.

I was scheduled to drink 160 mL of Clenpiq at 7:00 pm.  To make sure I'd be ready, I removed the bottle from the box at 5:00.  That was fortunate, because I discovered I could not remove the cap.  It was super child-proof, and for me it was super senior-proof as well.

Because of arthritis in my fingers, I often have to use pliers to open screw-top bottles and a screwdriver to pry open pull-tab cans.  The pliers were of no help in this case.  I struggled.  If I couldn't succeed in the next couple of hours, I thought I might have to try drilling holes in the bottle.

Was there a secret trick that I was missing?  I actually went online and searched for “can't open Clenpiq bottle.”  It turned out that several folks have posted about the same problem.  In each case, they persevered and finally got the cap off.  Frustratingly, though, they didn't explain how they did it!  One person took the bottle back to the drugstore for help; the clerk couldn't figure it out, but the pharmacist was able to solve the puzzle.

I guessed that my difficulty resulted from weak fingers unable to depress and turn the cap with sufficient pressure.  I realized that instead of trying to turn the cap counterclockwise, I could turn the bottle clockwise.

Placing it on a smooth countertop, I put my palm over the cap and pressed down hard with the heel of my hand, then used the other hand to rotate the bottle underneath.  Hearing the internal rachet clicking, I deduced that I needed to press down even harder, so I really put my weight into it.  It seemed like I was exerting at least ten pounds of downward force.  Finally I succeeded in freeing the bottle from its cap.

After that crisis passed, everything proceeded like clockwork.  I drank the Clenpiq and, over several hours, five cups of water.  Then I began passing the water.  It was after midnight when I went to bed, having set an alarm for 3:52 am.  I drank more Clenpiq at 4:00 and four more cups of water between then and 6:00.  The next items on my schedule:

  7:30     Shower and dress.
  8:30     My friend arrives to drive me to the hospital.
  9:00     Report at the check-in desk.
10:40     Procedure begins.

With nothing planned for at least the next hour, I relaxed on the couch.  The hard part was over.

The next thing I knew, I awakened and looked at the clock.  It read 9:15.  That couldn't be right, could it?!  But yes, I had fallen into a sound sleep.  My friend had knocked on my door and called my phone, but somehow I heard nothing.

I quickly went to the door and told him what had happened, and we got to the hospital before 10:00.  I apologized to everyone for being almost an hour late, but nobody yelled at me.  Everyone was very kind and friendly and attentive, rearranging their schedule to move my procedure to the next time slot.  They seemed genuinely interested in hearing me describe my medical history.

All went smoothly.  The nurses inserted an IV, wheeled me into the examination room, turned me on my side, strapped an oxygen mask on my face, and the next thing I knew I was waking up again.  Had I returned to my couch?  No, my apartment's wall doesn't have a monitor hanging on it.  I realized I must be in the recovery room.

The doctor came in and told me the good news:  my colon was clean.  Zero polyps.

I expected him to tell me he'd see me again in another five years.  But no, because I've passed the 75-year mark, I've aged out. 

“Resume your previous diet.  Continue your present medications.  A repeat colonoscopy is not recommended due to your age.”  So that's more good news:  no more of these procedures will be necessary.

The preparation instructions had said, “We realize that no one looks forward to having a colonoscopy.”  In reality, though, I must confess I'm actually a little disappointed.  It seems I've finally gotten the hang of this not-unpleasant adventure, and I'll never again experience it.



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