Colonoscopies: End to end

This is the strange tale of a feeble old man as he suffers the indignities of modern medicine. He was passed like a football from one colonoscopy to another, one surgery center to another, one doctor to another, one staff of lovely nurses to another, one blood stick to another, one operating room to another half-way across town all in one very messy morning. Much like Thing One and Thing Two of Dr. Seuss’ fame, our pitiful creature was caught in a loop between Doctor One and Doctor Two, and only one end was in sight. It was my end. I was that feeble old man.

Like the convoluted dream that moves from the sublime to the ridiculous, today was my lucky day, June 13, 2011. Indeed one has not really had a thorough-going colonoscopy until you have had two colonoscopies, as they say, end to end on the same morning. Doctor One’s written instructions offered classic preparation for the day when they said: “Today’s work site will be quite busy. It may be best if you prepare the site with Vaseline or other soothing lotion.” This comforting message was prior to learning that Doctor One, on completing colonoscopy number one, would seek a second opinion from Doctor Two, requiring colonoscopy number two some six miles across town.

On awakening from the first anesthetic, still drowsy, yet hearing the good news, the feeble old man was sorely tempted to mutter a perfectly appropriate four letter word to memorialize the occasion. In view of the many lovely nurses present, he reverted to “More Vaseline, please.”

It was then necessary to remove the famous rear-opening gown, return to street clothes, and be transported to the site of the second rear-end collision. There Doctor Two would repeat colonoscopy number two and render opinion number two, more or less. All the paper formalities were completed at facility number two. This required signing another understanding that my privacy would be protected, while clothed in a second rear-opening gown. The transition from Dr. One to Dr. Two was incredibly smooth, a path that surely had been practiced many times.

During the brief interlude between views, the feeble old man was reminded of a painfully analogous experience he endured while playing six-man football six decades earlier. As the team’s quarterback, coach Blackie Lane suggested that the snap from center be achieved from the rear-to-rear position. In this position it should be clear that the team’s center was facing the opponents, ready to snap the football. The quarterback was facing backwards, and standing, as it were, rear to rear with the center. Exactly what the prevailing theory was for this novel pass from center is not known, nor should it be fully imagined in front of startled fans on both sides of the field. It is shown in a very old photograph from 1949 below.

To avoid confusion the original picture (lower) and its relief (top) illustrate the ball-passing position. In football the ball is passed from C on the right to the QB (me) on the left. I am reaching down between my legs toward Bob Elkins’ nether parts to grab the ball as it is passed. Accomplishing this, the ball is in play, and I must turn around to see what is happening.  This fascinating experience may be read at Blackie’s brainstorm nearby.

It was this novel position that came readily to mind. In these end to end colonoscopies the passing is much like a baton being transferred between two runners from rear to rear, except that both rears in this case belong to the same feeble, old man. Picture that!!! On second thought, maybe you should not!

In neither scene, today’s nor sixty years ago, was I able to see what was going on behind me. Observers often snickered on the sidelines at the rear-to-rear view until the effect wears off, or the rear-view gowns are tied securely.

The outcomes were quite different. Thanks to highly trained and professional medical folks, and a liberal coating of Vaseline, the end to end colonoscopies were essentially painless, an anomalous lipoma the central object of concern.

Passing the football rear to rear, as pictured above, produced two fractured lumbar vertebrae when Paul Bunyon on the opposing team fell like a redwood tree in the middle of my back. The pain was excruciating for several days until our small town Dr. Butcher (A. W. Butcher, MD) and Dr. Swivelhips, a chiropractor with the nearest Xray machine, scoped my bones and found the cracks. I spent the next six weeks in a body cast from tail to breakfast.

Had I smeared myself with Vaseline possibly Bunyon would have slipped off harmlessly, but that is another story from which the above photographs were borrowed. For interested sports fans, passing the football in this manner is captured in “Blackie’s Brainstorm”. In today’s automated world a simple click of the button may transport you from one story to the next, or on June 13, 2011 from one colonoscopy to the next.

Take it from me: the colonoscopies were the better deal.

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