November 10th, 2019

Emergency!

Nobody Wants To Probe Colons When They Grow Up, But Thankfully Someone Did

Routine medical tests often bring nasty surprises ... usually related to the test being done.

I had a colonoscopy last week. You know what that means: No need to go into details. Honestly, I don't feel as bad for people getting them as I do for people who do them.

Lots of twelve year olds probably say they want to be a doctor when they grow up. I can't imagine any of them adding, "And I want to spend all day sticking tubes up butts to check for polyps!"

I slept through the procedure. For patients, the fun stuff comes a day or two before, when they first go on a clear diet, then take a substance that, um, clears that diet. But there's more to it, and therein lies this tale. It's about the only thing that stayed therein.

A week before, I had to stop taking supplements, including vitamin D (a lack of which contributed to my wintertime depression). I also stopped taking aspirin or any kind of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which I never knew is what NSAID is short for. (Acetaminophen is not an NSAID, but it also doesn't work well on me.)

Soon after that I developed a sinus headache, which I didn't worry about because if I have a sinus headache, it must be Tuesday. By the end of the next day someone was driving a railroad spike through the top of my skull, from the inside. It was every bit as bad as a migraine.

But what was causing it? Sinuses? Stress? Lack of vitamin D? Rebound from having taken too much ibuprofen in the past? The idea of highly trained specialists examining my butt with an eye toward giving me--ahem--an eye full?

Still, if I could make it through another few days, I could take pain pills again, and everything would be fine ... at least until I got the results of the test.

Then, just before the procedure, a strange thing happened.

One of the techs took my blood pressure, paused, then took it again. Then she called the doctor in. He took it, then he put the BP cuff on my other arm and took it again. Then they all looked at each other.

There's no typical blood pressure for everyone, but it's generally acknowledged that the bottom number--the diastolic--should be in the high double digits, like around 70.

My diastolic was in the triple digits. And not just barely, either. The first number, systolic, was also reaching for the stars.

There's your headache.

This is what the inside of my head felt like.

My blood pressure was so high, in fact, that they almost canceled the procedure. And I did not want to go through the prep again.

They did do it, but when I woke the new problem hadn't changed. The next day, at my work clinic, I found  Doctor Donna sitting in the waiting room, as if waiting for me. "We were wondering how soon this would happen," she said (I'd been her patient for many years). She refused to tell me who won the betting pool, but she did confirm the diagnosis. She also gave me a good once over, and found that it hurt whenever she tapped on the areas near my nose.

I had high blood pressure and another massive sinus infection.

Doctor Donna told me I had to reduce my stress levels. A lot. I thought about my job and laughed. Then I laughed again. Then I cried. It seems my idea to retire, and support myself by writing full time, has become a matter of life and death. But what the heck--I'm always looking for ways to guilt readers into buying books. Meanwhile I'm on two new meds, one of which makes me pee almost as much as I was doing the other thing, the day before the colonoscopy.

Oh, and the results of the actual procedure? Clean as a whistle (figuratively), with nary a polyp in sight. But if they hadn't done it, my head may have exploded a week later. It seems I'm entering a new phase of my mid-life.

I'll call it ... the Ailment Years.