Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy: Prep and Proceedure Experience

As regular readers may know, I was recently booked in for my first gastroscopy/colonoscopy combo. It’s a scary thought, having a camera shoved anywhere, let alone one down the throat and one where the sun don’t shine, and I’m an anxious person to start with. For those reasons, I have decided to share with you my experience – in the hope that when you google the proceedure for reassurance you will find this post helpful.

The Prep

My prep started three days before my proceedure, with a low fibre diet. The low fibre diet is designed to leave no residue in your stomach or intestines, so that the scope can get a clearer picture. The diet consists of refined white bread, rice and pasta, small amounts of chicken or quorn, clear soups and broths and plenty of clear liquids. So basically… White. 

I don’t eat white bread as a rule, so it was harder for me to adjust to the taste, but overall it wasn’t so bad. It would have been better if Sprog hadn’t insisted on eating nice food like pizza and bolognese the whole time…

Next, the night before and morning of the procedure, comes a concoction named MoviPrep. MoviPrep can only be described as a nuclear laxative. I was required to stop eating solid food, and start drinking my first litre of MoviPrep at 7pm. The first two glasses went down no problem – tasting like lemon juice with a spoonful of salt, but still bearable. As I got further down the litre jug, it became harder to keep going. This was mainly due to the sick full feeling I had, from drinking so much. I recommend adding lemon cordial to the mix, and alternating between prep and water. Ginger ale helps too, for the nausea, but don’t drink too much as it seemed to make me cramp.

It took me until 10.30pm to finish the jug, and by then I was on the loo every ten minutes. I won’t describe it for you, but given that chronic diarrhea was the reason I needed a colonoscopy in the first place, it was nothing worse than that. Trying to sleep was difficult; lying down so full of fluid makes for nausea akin to when you’ve had too much wine. I eventually got about four hours, before waking up at 5.30 to drink the second litre of prep. I had to stop ingesting anything from 8am, so the second round was a race against the clock. I chugged most of it, and only really struggled with the last glass. 

At this point the ‘effects’ consisted only of an amoxicillin-yellow coloured liquid, only as thick as water. The main issue was trying to use the bathroom frequently without being interrupted by my daughter, or worse, having her take over the bathroom for half an hour!

The Wait

Having finished the prep by 8.05am, and being no longer allowed food or drink, it was time to sit and wait. Sitting around doing nothing is not advisable; it allows for the anxiety to worsen. However, I was in no fit state to be tidying the house or similar, as moving around seemed to result in more toilet time. Which is why I started writing this post – to keep me occupied. I have to wait until at least 10.30am for Grandad to come take Sprog off my hands, and then my appointment isn’t until 2.30pm.

8.44am: I’m seriously thirsty. My mouth and throat feel numb and dry but I daren’t drink for fear of having the proceedures cancelled. I feel pretty gross. Sprog is giving me a hard time, just to make time drag on a little longer. 

9.05am: My internet isn’t working. I was attempting to read some blogs and whatnot on my phone, so as to pass the time, but nothing will load. Desperately want to text The Boyfriend for technical and emotional support but I don’t want to wake him up. Sigh.

10.11am: I have a headache, and I’m cold despite my fluffy pjs. On the upside, Sprog is dressed and ready, and I’m less hungry.

11.02am: Sprog has gone to Grandad’s and to keep my mind off things I have taken a hot shower. I hope to god I don’t need the loo again before I go…

12.44pm: The Boyfriend is on his way to come get me. I love going in the car but I hate today’s destination. I now know how pets feel en route to the vets.

1.49pm: We have arrived. My nerves have really kicked in; I’m sweating and I feel very sick. I’m visibly shaking to the point I’ve been asked three times if I’m cold.

The Procedures

Having booked in at reception I take a seat in a waiting room with about 80 other people. I press my head into The Boyfriend’s shoulder, praying they won’t call my name any time soon. The Boyfriend produces an apple from somewhere, and bites into it. I warn him that he is eating in a room full of nil by mouth, starved patients, and is about to make some enemies. He shrugs. A lady points out that he is being a bit mean, eating in front of all of us. We all laugh about it. 

Then before I know it, a male nurse in blue scrubs calls my name. Wide-eyed, I follow him into the next zone. He asks me to change into shorts and a gown; I’m grateful for the shorts until I see that they feature a lovely large hole in the butt area. And how will that preserve my dignity I wonder. He then talks me through the proceedures and has me sign various consent forms, while he preps my cannula. 

The only problem? The cannula won’t go into any of my teeny tiny veins. He asks another nurse to try, but she can’t do it either. He leads me into the theatre room where my endoscopist (is that the word?) tries. She can’t do it. Eventually an anaesthetist manages it, and we’re ready to go. By now I have chatted to all 4 members of staff present for my proceedures, I have inspected the equipment, and I have freaked myself out to the point of almost asking to leave.

That is, until the drugs kick in. The throat numbing spray tastes awful, worse than the bowel prep, and within seconds my mouth and throat feel thick and numb. The nurses remind me that I can still breathe, and swallow, and that the funny feeling will settle in a minute. A mouth guard is inserted (it’s to stop the scope damaging teeth, but I was actually really grateful for something to bite) and fentanyl and midazolam enter my IV. The room feels a little hazy. The nurses coach my breathing; in… And out… In… The big deep breaths help me relax, and suddenly this just isn’t so scary anymore.

The gastroscopy was a piece of cake. I don’t even remember them inserting the camera; I felt nothing and it was over in minutes. I coughed a little when it came out but that’s all. The colonoscopy wasn’t nearly as bad as I pictured either. I was handed a gas and air mouth piece, and given a little more midazolam. I went nuts for the gas and air, even when I couldn’t feel anything, just to make sure. I’ll be very honest, it was uncomfortable when the scope went round corners. Like really bad wind pains. Same when I was asked to lie in different positions. Certainly not as painful as expected. I even watched the screen; I watched them take biopsies. 

Then it was all over. I was wheeled off to recovery, where I was given a cup of tea and told I could go home as soon as I felt ready. The Boyfriend was waiting for me with my favourite fedora, and the drive home was calm and painless. I still right this second can’t believe that I did it, or that it was so much less scary than expected! 

The Next Morning & The Verdict 

I am finishing editing this post the morning after my proceedure, and frankly I’m glad I wrote it all down, because today I remember nothing. I remember The Boyfriend eating an apple, but nothing after that. Not coming home, not going to bed, nothing.

If you need to undergo either (or both) of these proceedures, I thoroughly recommend just biting the bullet. They were both much easier than I expected, the drugs were fantastic and I don’t think I’ve slept so well in years. Plus, they found the inflammation that’s been causing me so much pain, and in the next few weeks I will know what’s wrong, and can be treated for it. I hope my long-winded post helped you feel a little more reassured.

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