Here’s a story you won’t believe. Or, maybe you will.
I spent last week preparing for a colonoscopy. For the first few days this means various restrictions on your diet and taking only essential prescription medications (so no vitamins for example). It gets more serious on the last two days - lots of things you cannot eat nor drink. On the last day it’s a strict fast except for a very limited range of clear fluids. Late in the afternoon you have to begin taking the horrid mixture that clears your digestive system. That means you are awake all night with the most shocking case of diarrhea imaginable. From 4 am onwards it’s a complete fast - even water is not allowed.
I followed the preparation instructions to the letter. I arrived at Macquarie University Hospital on Monday at 7:15 am for a 7:30 admission. Because I knew I would be too weak to drive down that morning I had booked myself into the Travelodge next to the hospital. At 7:45 I was taken to a change room and asked various questions. I was asked if I felt generally well. I explained that I had had a head cold for a few days and the preparation for the colonoscopy had made me feel much worse. I added that I now had a throbbing headache which I attributed to dehydration. My temperature was taken. It was 38.8 celcius (that’s 102 in the real world). Apparently, therefore, I was febrile. All I knew was that I felt terribly sick and continuing to go without food and water was making me worse by the minute.
The admissions nurse explained that the doctor might choose to postpone the procedure because I was not well. She went to consult the specialist. For over one hour there was no further communication with me. I sat in a small change room (door closed) and my health continued to deteriorate rapidly. The room was the size of a public toilet cubicle.
I opened the door of my change room and said, politely, to a nurse passing by, that I was concerned I might have been forgotten. A few minutes later the nurse who had admitted me came back. She said she would have a decision for me soon but the doctor was working through all the other patients.
Around 30 minutes later the specialist came to me and said that she was happy to do the procedure and explained how it worked. She also said that the anaesthetist might be reluctant to allow the operation because I was obviously very ill. Around 15 minutes later the anaesthetist appeared and told me that it was not possible to anaesthetise me because I had a severe respiratory illness and I was febrile. I protested as politely as I could that I had come a long way and had completed the very unpleasant preparations. At that point the anaesthetist began speaking to me in a raised voice about risks to my health.
I asked her, quietly and politely, to stop yelling at me. Inside my throbbing head I was thinking “why did the specialist and the anaesthetist decide to a handle me with a ‘good cop bad cop’ routine?” The anaesthetist said she was not yelling but continued to speak to me in raised voice anyway. Again quietly and politely, I asked why it had taken two hours to advise me of a decision that could have been made when I was first admitted. I knew, of course, that they were rushing through the list of patients and had put the problem of me being ill aside. Of course, I got no answer to my question.
I returned to the reception area and explained the situation to the receptionist. She gave me a quizzical look which usually translates as “so?”. I said that I was wondering how I could secure a refund for the fee gap I had paid prior to admission (only $500). Annoyed, she told me that I would have to wait while she got in touch with a manager to authorise a refund. As time went by I got the impression that refunds were a rare occurrence. After almost half an hour of dithering I finally received confirmation of a refund. In the meantime, another nurse appeared and sat beside me in the waiting room. She asked me whether I wanted to make another appointment for a colonoscopy at a later date. Also she said they could arrange an appointment with a nearby doctor to treat my fever.
So after more than two-and-half-hours I was finally being offered something meaningful in the way of assistance. However, by that stage I just wanted to find something to drink and something to eat before driving back to Toowoon Bay where I would be able to rest properly. Later, I realised later that the nurse who spoke to me in the waiting room was only making sure that any grounds I had for complaint were eliminated or minimised. Ironically, had the colonoscopy gone ahead I would not have been allowed to drive for another 24 hours.
I am still very crook. Hopefully I am over the worst but I have a very painful headache - bed rest and panadol for at least another day. Thankfully, the hallucinations and nightmares I experienced over the past 48 hours seemed to have stopped.
I have been trying to figure out how I got the ‘flu when I spend almost all my time alone. Last week a thoughtless and ignorant young man coughed all over me as he emerged from a chemist shop I was passing. I certainly have not had any other opportunities to exchange bodily fluids with anyone.
Incidentally, there is nothing in the two pages of preparation instructions for a colonoscopy to alert the patient to conditions under which the procedure might have to be cancelled.