Golytely – What doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger – or so they say!

golytely (2)


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?).

glassy mints

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.

ng tube

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.

2nd half of Golytely

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?

24 replies »

  1. You managed to make the topic light and entertaining in your post, but my goodness, your experience sounds awful. I can’t even imagine drinking a gallon of water in the time period you were given! I’m just glad the procedure went so well. 🙂

    • It was truly awful. And everyone else that was coming for the same procedure – seemed so chipper about it all, as if drinking a gallon of the most putrid tasting stuff was no big whoop. Maybe I am just a whiner. Can’t wait until I can do it again – NOT!!!!!!

  2. Heavens to Betsy! I thought you guys were ahead of us over here in Blighty! Having had and knowing others who have been through the same procedure.. Didn’t have to drink this stuff. A few sachets of something almost nice.. Sure.. I was no stranger to the bathroom but ugh, you poor thing.
    BTW I’m not dyslexic but I nearly read that as GoLytely.. Lol – Better luck next time xx

  3. I really don’t envy you that drink. Frankly I’m amazed you did drink so much. Well done. I’m glad the colonoscopy went so well and that you’ll be free for another 12 months now.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

  4. I’ve been down this same road (gallons worth) 4 times now. I feel your pain, and all the other parts as well. my mom had colon cancer when she was in her early 40’s so, myself and all of my siblings have been regularly checked every so many years since. My favorite part was the drugs and warm blanket they put over me, shortly before the procedure itself. First time or two the mental aspect of what they were going to do to me was almost as bad and the prep. Glad you’re done for the year!

    • Oh yes, the warm blanket is lovely. We had a friend who succumbed very quickly to colon cancer when she was in her late 30s, so I really do understand the importance of the procedure. I just wish the prep wasn’t so barbaric. You would think in this day and age they could ultrasonically clean you out – or something>

  5. Oh God, I empathize and can relate. Did mine two years ago. I don’t remember what I had to drink. From what I understand, different doctors use different “cleansers.” I couldn’t swallow the last bout of poison mixture, so I didn’t.

    Glad yours turned out okay. Mine did too. My mom actually had to do it every six months for a time, because they removed something suspicious from her. Thankfully, none of it returned afterward. But, every six months … ACK!

    So good to know you made it through drinking that poison. It is an ugly process, to say the least.

    • Ooo, every 6 months sounds like pure torture. Glad everything turned out ok!!! I don’t know why they couldn’t create little pieces of chocolate with some transit increasing powers that you just ate the day before. That sounds like a much better idea to me. Perhaps like chocolate Exlax – why couldn’t they use that? That would be much kinder.

  6. Medicine at times is quite barbaric. Sorry, but I’m not a fan. And yes I too am a nurse. 🙂 No longer practicing because of what I now know. Hubby had one colonoscopy and he swore never again. Me? Not doing it. When medicine figures out how to scan for cancer in our colon in a gentle manner, then I’ll think it over. Until then, like I said, nope. <3

    • I totally agree. There just seems like there should be a kinder more gentler way to do many of the things we do in medicine. In 100 years, they will probably look back on the bowel prep and say – how awful, why would they do it that way.

      • I wasn’t too sure how you would react to my words and I am much relieved you feel as you do. I have come to respect my body and the way I go about health, and only use medicine when I have to. When I was a nurse I believed in medicine 100% and then I hurt my lower back terribly. After 2 failed surgeries done by a surgeon I worked with and saw how horribly I was treated (Me an RN!) in the hospital as a patient, began to really open my eyes to the Truth of how brutal medicine is. That was in 1993 and I have been on a Healing Journey ever since. Thank you for receiving my words with grace. Not all who are “in” the system do and become very defensive and downright rude. I really appreciate your honesty. <3

  7. Yuck, you poor thing! Have you ever drank one of those fleet phospho laxatives? It is awful and sounds like what you had. I can’t stand a few ounces of that, so I’d be dying if I had to drink an antifreeze thing full! <3

  8. Very interesting. My sister has just gone through the whole procedure and reported it exactly the same way. A bit worrying, though. You do wonder if there are easier ways of going about things (and less toxic) and they just haven’t got round to them yet. Maybe we’re not complaining enough.

    • Sometimes I think as advanced as we are, why are we still putting patients through such barbaric procedures. It turned out after the procedure – I was told there other methods that weren’t quite as challenging (and horrible) for cleaning out one’s system. I just wonder if having to go through that was some rite of passage (ha – no pun intended).

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