By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
If there is one kind of doctor I could never be, it’s a gastroenterologist. Aside from the fact that I’m a gasbag, the reason is simple: When it comes to invasive medical procedures that involve the exploration of cavities not treated by a dentist, I don’t know which end is up.
Fortunately, my gastroenterologist, Dr. Emily Glazer, doesn’t have that problem. That’s why she could make both head and tail of my problem (a cast-iron stomach that was getting a little rusty) by performing an endoscopy and a colonoscopy on me at the same time.
It had to be one of the most remarkable feats in medical annals (not to be confused with a similar word that would be an appalling but appropriate typo, especially if my blood was type O).
During treatment for my most recent kidney stone (I have had four, enough to make another Mount Rushmore), a CAT scan showed that I had an abnormality in my upper gastrointestinal tract. As opposed, of course, to the abnormality in my upper cranial region.
“It’ll be one-stop shopping,” Dr. Glazer said of the double procedure as I sat in her office for a consultation.
“I don’t like to shop,” I replied.
“Trust me,” she said. “You’re getting a good deal.”
The next evening, I had to prepare for the colonoscopy. I hadn’t had one for at least a dozen years and was, according to Dr. Glazer, “long past due.” The preparation involved the ingestion of a vile liquid that had the same effect on my innards as dynamite would have on the Hoover Dam.
Feeling flushed, I arrived at 7 o’clock the following morning at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, an excellent facility in Port Jefferson, New York, where I have been treated for kidney stones so many times that I should have my own parking space. My wife, Sue, drove me there because I would be too loopy to drive myself home, not that such a state of discombobulation would be anything out of the ordinary.
The first thing I had to do was get undressed and put on a johnny coat, the flimsy gown that opens in the back, meaning I couldn’t even turn the other cheek. Thankfully, I didn’t have to because I got to put on a second johnny coat and wear it the other way around so I was fully covered. I hoped the insurance company would agree.
“Poor Johnny,” I said to a nice nurse named Margaret. “I’m wearing both of his coats. He’ll catch cold.”
“Don’t worry,” she responded. “We’ll take good care of him.”
Margaret and everyone else at Mather took good care of me. When a catheter was hooked up to the back of my left hand, I asked, “Can I still wave to people?”
“Yes,” Margaret said. “But they might move you to the psych unit.”
Instead, I was moved to the operating room, where Dr. Robert Bernstein, the anesthesiologist, said I’d be getting a GI procedure.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “I’m not in the Army.”
I could tell he couldn’t wait to knock me out. But he said that first he would spray my throat with a local anesthetic.
“I don’t care where it comes from,” I said.
“It’s to prevent a gag reflex,” Dr. Bernstein explained.
“I’m always pulling gags,” I told him.
“I can see that,” he said, adding that after I was put under, I would have some air pumped into me to open my internal equivalent of the Lincoln Tunnel.
“I’m already full of hot air,” I noted.
Dr. Bernstein smiled and nodded in agreement.
Dr. Glazer came in and said the whole thing would take less than half an hour.
“We’ll do the endoscopy first,” she said, noting that the procedure would be done through my mouth. “After that, we’ll spin you around and do the colonoscopy.”
“You mean it will be like a spin class?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Dr. Glazer. “Except you won’t be awake.”
A moment later, it was all quiet on the western front. In what seemed like another moment, I was awake again and lying in the recovery unit. I was, predictably, even loopier than usual. But considering the abnormality turned out to be the only thing about me that’s normal, I did very well, thanks to the wonderful doctors and nurses who had a great deal of patience with the silliest of patients.
As I said to one of them before Sue drove me home, “It all came out in the end.”