Basically, January was a great winter month. I published two new editions of map books, worked on several inside projects and mailed 75 documents needed to license a Domestic Winery. I also broke a molar just before New Years Eve. While I was getting it worked on, they took digital pictures of it and sent one to me. Medicine has changed.Normally I avoid discussing medical stuff like the plague. Too often it bogs down in one-upmanship of the most disgusting kind. But for you younger readers out there, this may serve as a cautionary tail. It all started back in September. Alert readers may remember the stack of come-ons from every insurance company in the nation to buy their brand of Medicare Part “B” . That was just the beginning of a mountain of paperwork that I climbed to get a medicare card. About that time, my “primary care” physician dropped most of his private cases to take an administrative job. I should explain that over the years every clinic and hospital in our region has been swallowed up by Providence Health Care. So all of the medical buildings in this story are part of the same system.I did find a doctor who wasn’t a “specialist” and was taking new patients. He suggested that since I was signed up for Medicare, I should take advantage of the free service offered by our clinic, “Welcome to Medicare”. It sounded simple enough, so I made an appointment. They told me at the time to come early to fill out some paperwork.
It turned out to be quite a bit of paperwork: What medications do you take? Have you ever been hospitalized?…. on and on for 8 pages or so. I was looking around the waiting room and everyone there was older, much older, than I am. I think there should be another level, something even more senior than senior without calling it outright ancient. At any rate after some height and weight stuff I ended up in an exam room where the nurse checked my blood pressure with one of those automatic blood pressure cuffs. It was healthy, as always. You can’t walk into any medical facility lately without having your blood pressure checked at least once if not several times.
Then the “Welcome to Medicare” doctor came in. She was nice and liked the look of my questionnaire. I was almost home free when she asked “So has anyone in your family ever had bowel trouble”. Not thinking about it I mentioned that my father had something removed from his colon once. That did it. She signed me up for a colonoscopy right then and there. And there were some blood tests before that. This was getting to be more “welcoming” all the time.
So I am at the Kettle Falls Clinic where she said I could get the blood tests. Luckily I had an exam sheet from “Welcome to Medicare” because the nurses there had no idea what blood tests I was scheduled for. After checking with someone who checked with someone who actually knew something, they got around to drawing blood. I’m almost out the door when they notice that I’m signed up for a colonoscopy. They ask me if I have my “kit” yet. Well no. What’s with this kit thing? Oh, for $15 we have these kits ready for your fasting before the colonoscopy. So I buy a “kit”, 3 bottles in a paper bag, no instructions.
With the colonoscopy appointment looming about a week away, I visit a Colville clinic. I find out that my colonoscopy appointment wasn’t really for a colonoscopy, it was to see the doctor who would make sure I was healthy enough for a colonoscopy. So, the next week, I see the colonoscopy doctor. After the mandatory blood pressure test, he comes in. He is short, thin and dressed completely in black with a stylish mustache. Think Mexican Ninja. Yes I am healthy enough to find out if I’m not healthy. And it turns out the colonoscopy kit I have is not the one he prescribes, so they modify it and even put all four bottles in a new paper bag and give me actual instructions. It also turns out that they have an opening 3 days away in their schedule, and they sign me up right there. Also I need a designated driver. I designate Cheryl.
The instructions start at noon the day before. Well actually you can’teat any solid food that day, so your last meal is the day before the day before the colonoscopy. On colonoscopy eve, you get a 10oz bottle of Magnesium Citrate for lunch. It comes in a small pop bottle, tastes like sour lemon concentrate and has the consistency of heavy mineral water. That was just the beginning. Later I downed 16 glasses of Miralax-laced Gatorade and started to feel like a water balloon with legs. I believe in playing the cards as they are dealt and this hand was a royal straight flush.
7:30 in the morning found us in the waiting room of the hospital, waiting for someone to actually be at the desk. Eventually they had me in a private room with one of those no-back hospital gowns on and were taking more blood pressure tests. After three tries they got an IV line into one of my “great veins” and I was third in line for the procedure.
The operating room was full of people and equipment. I was wired up to a monitor with analog and digital readings in four colors for pulse, blood pressure, oxygen level and breathing rate (I think). That is about the last thing I remember. The anesthesiologist stuck a big syringe in the IV tube and told me I would be unconscious in 30 seconds. An hour or so later I woke up in back in the private room. Cheryl was there. They took more blood pressure tests. They also brought in 4 glossy technicolor pictures of the inside of my insides. No problems and I’ll spare you copies of those pictures in this blog. I assume my Mexican Ninja doctor did the procedure although I never did see him.
They insisted I couldn’t drive heavy equipment – or anything else for that matter – the rest of the day. I was content to have a cowboy omelet at Maverick’s restaurant and I hope I’m never welcomed to Medicare again.