Nov 21, 2009

Colonoscopy from Hell

Warning: this is graphic.

A couple of months ago I had an upper GI endoscopy done. I was sedated with a drug called Versed, which isn't a general anesthesia but rather it is an “amnesia drug” as some call it. I was nervous, but I woke up afterwards not remembering anything, and the procedure was complete. No big deal to me!

So the other day I went in for the other end – the colonoscopy. I was expecting a similar experience, to not be aware and wake up and it's done. But in addition to Versed they gave me another drug “for discomfort”. I didn't know I'd have discomfort, and everyone says it's so easy. The prep is the worst part for most people, although I got through that ok.

So here's what happened, from my perspective.

I was nervous, but expecting it to go just fine. In the past I had two sigmoidoscopies that were stopped due to pain, but they don't give any drugs for that. I was told that this would be much different. They put the drugs in the IV and I remember feeling them kick in and drifting off to a nice little high before I “slept”. The next thing I know, I'm awake and crying, looking at my husband and a nurse and trying to form words but was almost paralyzed. Like in a nightmare when you try to scream but there's no voice coming out. I had to tell them that while I was “out” I had the worst nightmare I've ever had. I “dreamed” that I had been tortured and in unbearable pain, and that I had been screaming and pleading to stop, and then I climbed outside of my own body to "escape" the pain.

I was frightened, but glad that it was just a dream.

Then the doctor came by and said they were unable to complete the procedure because I was in so much pain, and screaming! OMG! I had thought it was a nightmare that I woke up from, only to find out it was REAL. Apparently when I “dreamed” I left my body, my blood pressure and oxygen levels had dropped dangerously low and that's when they stopped the whole thing.

It's been two days now, and it keeps popping into my mind all the time. Like I MUST make some sense of it, involuntarily playing it over and over again in my mind. That horrible dream was REAL? How much of it was real? Did I actually experience what was in the dream??
I keep recalling more little bits of it, and when I remember the pain my whole body just wants to roll up and die. Yet it kills me that i CAN'T recall everything and make sense of it. If I can't reassure myself it was only a dream, maybe just that it's all over now and will never ever happen again?

I now understand that Versed doesn't kill pain, it just makes you (supposedly) forget you had it. And demerol is a painkiller, that it turns out I am allergic to as it made me itch and eyes swelled up afterwards. I believe that's the same drug that caused Michael Jackson to stop breathing. But it didn't kill the pain. Most people don't have more than a little discomfort with a colonoscopy, and some even have it without drugs at all.

I would not discourage anyone from getting this important sceening for colon cancer. I have IBS and fibromyalgia, both of which intensify pain. So anyone with either or both of those, be sure to discuss that ahead of time with the doctor.

In the future I will demand a general anesthesia before anybody sticks a camera up my butt.

It's been 4 days now, and thankful that I didn't go into a coma, or worse. I still cry when I think of what happened (and what could have happened).

More than 2 years later, and I feel terrified if I think about it at all.

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