This is what I was faced with last week, the prospect of drinking an entire gallon of Golytely in preparation for the dreaded colonoscopy. It turns out when you get older, not only are you actually getting older (which in and of itself is rather mind-blowing) but the medical profession has planned all kinds of horrible things for you to do, in the name of prevention, just to add insult to injury.
Golytely is actually polyethylene glycol with electrolytes mixed in in it, that’s what gives it that fantastically salty, completely unpalatable taste. It is meant to completely clean out your intestinal system, so nothing bungs up the scope they use to peer into your colon. But here’s the thing, polyethylene glycol (with electrolytes) sounds very much like ethylene glycol. What is ethylene glycol – it is antifreeze, the stuff used as a coolant in cars. It is considered toxic, but on the good side, it is also completely tasteless (which is a plus). I have watched Investigation Discovery shows, specifically Snapped, in which spouses have slowly poisoned their mates to death with antifreeze, or ethylene glycol. So – I ask myself, why would anyone, especially in the medical community, want me to drink something that sounds like something really, really toxic?
(I included the chemical structures, just to show how little difference there is between the two.)
A week before my colonoscopy, I went into see the Preadmission nurse. She gave me a most thorough rundown on how my life would become completely miserable for two days prior to the procedure. I had to prep for this, by drinking only clear liquids two days prior (no coffee with creamer, no Starbucks, just broth and apple juice and Fox’s Glassy Mints-that was my idea, not hers – they are clear – right?).
Then on the day before, I had to take my bottle of Golytely (which I might add even looks very much like a bottle of antifreeze). I was instructed to add water to the fill line, and store in the fridge, because that makes it so much more scrumptious. I asked the Nurse if she could give me a NG tube (nasogastric). I told her I knew how to insert them, and I would just insert it myself – so I didn’t have to actually drink the stuff, I could just instill it through the tube. She was not amused at all with this proposal. I think she actually wanted me to suffer, as it would put hair on my chest, make me a stronger person.
I, being the good patient that I am (surprisingly, because Nurses, which I am (a nurse), are inherently horrible and non-compliant patients – or so I am told) followed the clear liquids guidelines to the letter. I didn’t really even complain about it. But that all stopped when I took that first swallow of the deliciously cold, bitter Golytely. Let the complaining begin. I was told I had to drink half a gallon of it, starting at 6PM the evening before the procedure, finishing by about 8PM – and then sit back and watch the fireworks begin. The nurse also advised me to drink other stuff, so I didn’t get dehydrated. What the heck?! I have never in my life drunk half a gallon of anything in 2 hours, and then she is telling me to drink more stuff, on top of that. Honestly, it took me about 4 hours to drink the first half-gallon of Golytely. And things started happening. Sometimes the squirrels will scamper across our roof, you can hear their little feet pittering and pattering, scurrying to and fro. Imagine one’s intestinal system making similar sounds, pittering, pattering and scurrying. All night long.
Then, to add to the excitement, I was instructed to arise at 3:30 in the morning and drink the second half of the bottle. But I never went to bed. Me and the squirrels had a grand old time, dashing to and fro to the toilet. I tried to drink the entire second half, but just couldn’t finish it off. I had about 2 cups left at 5:30AM, when I had to stop taking anything. I have never been so excited in my life to be told I couldn’t drink. I didn’t even care I couldn’t have my coffee. Even when I brushed my teeth, I couldn’t get the taste of the polyethylene glycol out of my mouth. I still shudder at the thought of that taste.
The colonoscopy went well, thank-goodness, but the most exciting part of the whole deal, is I have to repeat the procedure in one year. The gastroenterologist has promised me, he will find a kinder, more gentler way for me prepare for it next year. My question is, why couldn’t we have done that this year? Or is the process of going through the Golytely – just a rite of passage (hee-hee – no pun intended), something we should all suffer through?