Today, the word “procedure” seems to cover every medical event, from routine tests to open heart surgery. Those of you who have reached a certain stage in life may recognize the “procedure” that is the subject of this column.
It begins with a notice from your doctor that “it has been ten years” since your last time. So, you make an appointment, and they send you your “instructions.” Squeamish readers need go no further.
As you go through the list, not remembering the details from a decade or more ago, you think to yourself, “I can handle this. I’ve done it before.”
So you go to the pharmacy and buy three ten-ounce bottles of an “oral solution” located at the opposite end of the store from anything actually drinkable. This “solution” comes in different flavors, so you buy one cherry, one lemon, and one grape.
And then, a few days before the appointment, you begin a “low-residue” diet. No fruits, raw vegetables, salads, cereals, bran, or nuts. Also no hot dogs or sauerkraut. I like all of those foods, but a few days without is no problem. How much sauerkraut does anyone need?
Then comes the “day before,” and it’s all kidding aside. Nothing but clear liquids. I bought enough bouillon, Gatorade, and apple juice to last a year, if not a lifetime. I don’t recall when I last drank any bouillon, but I will happily give you a bunch of little cubes if you need them.
Then the hard part, the not-so-tolerable, sets in. The night before the “procedure,” you start drinking the stuff from the drug store, which tastes awful in all of its different flavors. For those who haven’t had the experience, I can tell you it’s the worst drink ever. It makes you want to drive over to Bedford and buy a case of Moxie.
Once the first round is over, and now it’s around 8:00 PM, you start chug-a-lugging those clear liquids. I had planned on some serious reading, or perhaps watching an episode of Fauda on my iPad. All such thoughts went away. Blessed sleep, until the interruptions start in what the humorist Dave Barry has labelled the ‘‘behindular zone.”
But that’s not the end of it. The sadist who dreamed up this regimen says you need to do the whole thing over again six hours “before your scheduled procedure time,” which for me was 9:00 AM. So, at 3:00 o’clock in the morning, I embark on Round 2, another fifteen ounces of the undrinkable stuff, the same clear liquid chasers, and sporadic sleep but mostly not.
When you show up at the hospital, they take you into an enclosed space and tell you to put all your stuff in green plastic bags. Then they ask a lot of questions, beginning with “name and date of birth.” I’m usually pretty good at that, but I was hungry and tired and stumbled over the year.
The doctor, who hasn’t changed much in the last ten years, arrives with a smile on his face. No wonder. He’s been eating just fine and got a good night’s sleep.
And then, they wheel you off, dripping IV and all, and the next thing you know you’re back where you started. Apparently the procedure is over, though you don’t remember it.
The doctor arrives, still smiling, and says it all “looks good.” He hands you “discharge instructions,” a page which includes eight color photos. I had no idea that particular part of my anatomy was so colorful. “Doctor,” I say, “You haven’t made getting ready for this any easier.”
“That’s true,” he says, “but I have more good news for you. That’s your last one.”
The benefits of age never felt so good. But to turn serious for just a minute, if you are over fifty and haven’t gone through this, I hope this article won’t deter you. Despite all my complaints, it’s worth it.