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A procedure worth taking

Published April 27. 2013 09:03AM

I am extremely grateful as I write this column for several reasons. First I listened to my father's doctor who requested that my brother and I have our colons checked due to our family's history with colon cancer. Typically doctors recommend that such a test is not necessary until one reaches 50, but in cases where family history indicates a higher risk doctors recommend beginning at 40. In my case, my great grandmother died from colon cancer and my grandmother died of pancreatic cancer. While both were well over 70 when they got sick, the danger was there. When my father had some indications a few years back, the doctor recommended we get checked earlier.

I made the arrangement last month coincidentally a few weeks before Linda Koehler's humorous column appeared describing her screening experience. When the doctor who consulted with me walked into the room, he asked, "What brings you here today?" I said half jokingly, "My father's doctor made me come." "Oh," he said, and then we discussed why I was there. We set up the colonoscopy for the middle of April, but an insurance snafu postponed it a week.

It just so happened that following week I was attending some webinars with some colleagues and it was lunch time so my fasting was tested by the delightful aromas of food, but I held fast and soon the preparation started. I read the bottle of laxative that I needed to use and found it humorous that one dose was only allowed per day and now I was about to take the whole bottle in about six hours. Talk about cleaning your system. Friends weren't kidding when they said you should not wander too far away from that throne room. By the time the evening was over, I was trying to figure out if there was room for digital cable in the shower so I could relax in peace since comfort was out of the question.

I also wondered what exactly happened if I still had to go after I went to bed. Turned out that I didn't get much sleep anyway and soon it was 6 a.m. and time to hit the office for the test. Dr. Sotirios Vasilopoulos of the Carbon-Schuylkill Endocscopy Center was performing my colonoscopy that morning and I must say he is a wonderful caring specialist. He patiently explained everything to me and pretty soon it was lights out. When I came to a short time later, his wonderful staff checked me out and got me situated in the recovery area. He explained that it was a good thing I came in as they removed an inch long polyp from my colon which would have become malignant eventually. I was glad that I listened to the doctors and went for the test.

I did not count on what happened next though. Usually there are no aftereffects from the procedure. In fact the one statistic I found from the Annals of Internal Medicine stated that 5 in 1,000 people suffer a complication. Leave it to me to be one of those five people. At my age I'm lucky I haven't been struck by lightning. Unfortunately I had some bleeding from my colonoscopy and ended up back at Gnaden Huetten to get monitored and repaired. Basically the procedure needed to be repeated so that the doctor could put a clip over the site of the polyp to strengthen the wall until it healed.

The bleeding started after I got home so I went back to the emergency room where the doctors and nurses quickly diagnosed what was wrong and were in touch with Dr. V. who had me admitted for observation and to redo the procedure the next day. As I learned afterward if you are one of those rare cases where you start to bleed it is really important to return to the hospital so they can monitor you, and it is equally important to make sure someone is with you. My wife Katie fortunately was there to get me back to the hospital.

It was an apprehensive evening for me, but the nurses and doctors who spoke to me were reassuring. They told me the bleeding would stop, but they needed to redo the procedure to make sure it did not recur. Sure enough, during the night the bleeding did stop and I was able to prep for the procedure again since I had breakfast before my problem started.

I am grateful to Dr. V. for returning to the hospital on a Saturday to redo the procedure. He is a gifted internist with a wonderful bedside manner and I was so glad he was the one taking care of me. I also want to thank everyone who assisted him and came in on Saturday just to redo my procedure. Most of all, I want to thank my nurses and CNAs Katilyn, Christina, Brittany, Mike, Joann and Dirk as well all of the other personnel who cared for me and reassured me. I also want to thank all of the lab techs and phlebs who earned their wings on my rebellious blood vessels while trying to draw blood several times to keep me safe. I cannot say enough for how glad I was to be in their care.

I must say even though I was one of the small minority, I am so glad I listened to my dad's doctor and went for the test. In my case even with the complication I have no doubt it saved my life. If you are on the fence, you should go yesterday and get one. The life it saves will be yours.

Til next time…

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