Regular readers will know I am a Crohns-y, which is to say, I have Crohn’s disease. If you are unfamiliar with it, essentially it’s ulcers in the gut and the most common symptom is diarrhoea. Which I have frequently. I am also quite reluctant to go and see a doctor about it because usually it’s pretty quiet. But this year it’s gotten a bit noisy, so recently I had to have a colonoscopy. If you’ve never had one – relax, they’re nowhere near as terrible as you’re imaging. The worst part is the prep: you have to drink this awful solution which gives you the most explosive, watery diarrhoea you’ve ever had. But you need to do that because the doctor needs to get a good look at your gut, so your insides need to be squeaky clean.
So, I did my prep. My friend, ItalianLady, picked me up to bring me to the appointment at the hospital here in Bristol — because you’re sedated they won’t let you out afterwards on your own, lest you do something silly.
We rocked up to hospital at 10. Got checked in. Waited a wee bit, then was called to go back and get changed into gown. All fine at this point. Said goodbye to ItalianLady (she’s not allowed to come into the second waiting room).
I get changed. In waiting room. Bad pain in lower right side – classic Crohn’s spot. I do a bit of rocking, thinking it’s just wind (the laxative is volcanic, so this is a reasonable hypothesis). Doesn’t help. Pain gets much, much worse. To the point where I’m rocking back and forth and then burst into tears. Now, I’m not a crier. I had to ask the young girl (a fellow patient) – 17 maybe? – to get the nurse. At this point, I’m doubled over and can’t stand up straight. Nurses come and shuffle me into a private room. Take blood pressure and temp.
About ten minutes later – I’m sobbing at this point – the doc who’s going to do the scope comes and shuffles me into the ward to do an exam. I can barely get on the gurney, which I have shuffled to, bent over double. I get in and he just touches my belly and I scream in agony. It gets worse. I’m sobbing – this is the worst pain I have ever experienced. The docs haven’t seen anything like this with a Crohn’s patient, but it could be down to the prep. The laxative can be really strong and irritate an already irritated colon. A nurse thinks it might be a bladder infection. Someone else suggests kidneys as the prep can be really harmful to them. ItalianLady arrives, not panicking but knowing that being called back after such a short time means something isn’t right.
I spend the next three hours writhing about in pain. Now, I’ve never been in labour, never given birth, so I don’t know exactly what that’s like, but from what I’ve seen on TV, that’s what it felt like for me. I was tossing and turning, doing weird yoga to try and massage my colon, hoping for the world’s biggest, ugliest, nastiest fart, and nothing. Just horrible, intractable pain.
Doctors are coming and going at this point. ItalianLady is not best pleased with the service level. She has never seen anyone in pain like this before and is truly scared. Trying to reassure me but at this point, I’m in so much pain I can’t talk. I’m just shouting one word phrases: No, hot, cold, fix it. I went from burning up with fever, to shivering uncontrollably with chills. I’m just moaning and whimpering and sobbing.
They gave me paracetemol by drip, that didn’t do anything. They gave me a morphine syrup. Didn’t touch the sides.
The surgical team appears. At this point the colonoscopy is totally off and we’re deciding whether or not to admit me to A&E. There’s only one doc in the scope ward and he’s, you know, busy scoping other people. The surgical team wants to know if the prep has perforated the bowel, or if there’s a stricture that’s causing the pain – if you imagine trying to force a huge bottle of water through a straw, you get the idea. They were wondering if that was causing the pain.
At any rate, after three hours, the pain starts to subside. And I can unfurl myself – I’ve been mostly curled into a ball. I’m moved to a different ward – isolation. If you’re a giant shit bomb – which at this point I am – you get a private room.
They want to do a CT scan so fine, but they need a contrast agent, and I have to explain that in no uncertain terms we are not using the laxative as the contrast agent (that’s what I had for the MRI). So they have to inject me with something else. Which, when they do, just as they’re doing the scan, make my vein feel like it’s going to explode because it’s on fire. But that only lasts a minute.
Back in my private room, and I’m feeling like myself again. High on the sugary drink they gave me, I’m yammering away like a total nutter. At one point, after I’d started feeling better but before they took me to the private room, I was yammering away about my piñata, Jeff, the turkey I like on the airplane, and the nurse goes to ItalianLady: is she hallucinating? And ItalianLady laughs and goes: No, this means she’s feeling better. Which is exactly what The Mom would have said.
I had the CT at 4.30, and got discharged by 9.30. ItalianLady and I went to get something to eat at Wagamama – I ate about a quarter of my ramen and then we came home.
The weird thing was that The Mom was not with me during this ghastly ordeal, nor did I ask ItalianLady to ring her. Because it would’ve just made her panic and freak out. I can’t imagine what it would be like to know one of your kids is that sick and around 3,000 miles away.
When I spoke to her this morning on Skype, The Mom was, as I had suspected she would be, terrified, horrified, and eternally grateful to ItalianLady for her kindness and forthrightness with the doctors. It’s scary having something like that happen, and even scarier when you’re so far from home. But all the emails and texts and support I’ve had from friends (who are family) over here stands me in good stead – and at least The Mom need not worry that I’ve got no one to look after me. As we speak, my nearest and dearest in the UK have all offered to come and stay with me.
For me, I’m glad it’s over with for now, and am looking forward to The Mom’s September visit – whereupon I’m dead certain she and my friends will all get together and start ganging up on me for not taking better care of myself. and that’s the level of abuse you only get from family.
Oh, and on the off chance Jeremy Hunt finds this: All this happened to me on a Saturday and I received THE BEST CARE.