I’m a doctor who just had his first colonoscopy in my 60s — without anesthesia

Well, I am that family physician and geriatrician who is now almost 70 years old. And I cannot believe it because, in some ways, I am still like 27 years old!

First of all, I’m very healthy, and I’m lucky that nobody in my family had colon cancer or any cancer. Most of my relatives lived into the late 80s, and my grandmother and my grand grandfather lived to the ripe age of 95.

My mom is actually now 93, and she might live longer than my grandmother. I conquered many mountains like Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Rainier, Mount San Gorgonio, and Mt. San Jacinto, and because of mountaineering and a negative family history of colon cancer, and because I’m really healthy and living a healthy lifestyle, I thought that I would never have a colonoscopy done.

But, my wife and two sons, concerned about my health, continued for years to bother me and eventually talked me into a colonoscopy.

So a couple of weeks ago, I visited a gastroenterologist, and I told him I would do a colonoscopy only under two conditions. Those conditions were that I did not want any anesthesia, and I wanted to have this whole experience of watching my own colonoscopy!

I wanted to see firsthand if it is as unpleasant and difficult as people tell me. I thought that my doctor would be against that idea, but I was surprised that he just said, “Sure, let’s do it.

He explained to me that the preparation of the colon is very important, and he would prescribe a colon cleanser white powder that I would mix with 1 gallon of water. He said I needed to drink it the day before the colonoscopy.

I wanted to follow his instructions exactly, and I drank that lemon-tasting liquid one glass every 15 minutes. But the taste was terrible, and I finished it not in four hours, as I should, but it took me 6 1/2 hours. The difficulty level was 9/10, and I’m not going to drink or eat anything with a lemon taste for the next year or so.

So, as scheduled, I drove myself to our surgical center. They specifically told me not to drive before and after the procedure, but I drove myself. I was surprised by how many papers I had to fill out.

I was ready for that procedure. Even they wrote that if I did not have a ride home, they would not do the procedure, and I had to sign it.

I put my wife’s name, but I drove myself back home. Please do not tell that to my wife or my nurses either — or I will be in trouble. They gave me two plastic bags, one for my clothes and another for my shoes, and I was completely naked with only that gown on, which was opened on the back.

I was thinking about the meaning of life, how little we need to live our lives and how much stuff we have, and all my clothes fit in those two small plastic bags.

I was ready for the procedure and fully aware of everything. This was like a true adventure for me! Two solid young men placed me on the left side and were close to me during the colonoscopy. I wonder why I had to have those two strong young men? Maybe to hold me not to move? Or maybe they were there just to see a crazy old doctor doing a colonoscopy without any anesthesia?! I do not know, but I did not move. I was an excellent patient. I had my iPhone video camera ready and was in a good mood. I thought it was going to be a great experience.

My gastroenterologist was slowly advancing the colonoscope through the descending colon. My discomfort was around 4/10.

But when he started pushing that colonoscope through my splenic curvature, it was very painful — 10/10.

I was moaning but not moving. I almost wanted to ask him to abort this procedure. I was recording a video, and I was looking inside of my colon, which was in a way very beautiful and very clean. The doctor gave me three compliments that my colon is like a 20-year-old young man, without any polyps or any problems. The second difficult part was when he was pushing that colonoscope through hepatic curvature. Tears came to my eyes. I was moaning even more. The pain was again 10/10, but only for a couple of minutes.

At one moment, I saw a beautiful opening into my appendix and the end of my small bowel too. Everything was very beautiful and normal and healthy looking!

Pulling back the colonoscope was kind of pleasant, but the doctor also put a lot of air into my colon. That created discomfort of 7/10 for the next 12 hours, and I was expelling lots of gas. I tried to stay alone and away from other people during those hours.

In conclusion, if you ask me if I would do it again without anesthesia, my answer is: Yes. But I would take Ativan or Xanax, or maybe better diazepam to relax me and calm me down. I think this whole procedure would be more pleasant.

Or, maybe I could drink 8 ounces of plum brandy 30 minutes before the procedure, and that would work maybe even better.

Overall, I’m glad my colonoscopy is over, and the doctor said I do not need to repeat it for the next ten years! In my book, it will be more like never again, but if I need it a second time, I will get prepared better.

In a way, I am now a better doctor, and I will recommend colonoscopy even more, according to AAFP recommendations. I would also highly recommend that all health care professionals do a colonoscopy just to see firsthand how it is to be a patient and to understand our patients better!

If you did not have a colonoscopy, I would still recommend that you do it in a conventional way and get that IV sedation. But if you are an adventurer as I am, I would highly recommend that you do a colonoscopy the same way I did without anesthesia. I heard there might be only one patient out of 1000 who is doing colonoscopy without anesthesia as I did. So in a way, that’s some kind of crazy record, and I will tell that one day to my grandchildren. I am already bragging about that. God bless, and remember that we never have enough time and love and do a colonoscopy sooner than I did.

Mike Neskovic is a family physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com


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