A couple of weeks ago, I had an appointment on Monday morning at the hospital not far from my home – the one I’ve gone to for all my health needs so far – for my latest colonoscopy. I think my last one was probably in 2010, so I’m a little overdue for one. And, as I’ve had bad flare-ups every other year since about 2005, I’m pretty much due for another.
I told the doctor that I had to work in the afternoon, so he promised a ten o’clock appointment. It turned out to be eleven o’clock. Perhaps because of this, I wasn’t given a general anaesthetic like every other time I’ve had a colonoscopy in Korea. Wasn’t even given the option, actually.
Another difference to my previous experience was the laxative I was prescribed. The earlier ones were small bottles of vile fluid that I had to drink and follow up with two litres of water. This one was a powder that you dissolve in water and then drink. It had the same horrible, sweet-bleach taste, but was at least a lot milder. I couldn’t manage the whole dose in the evening, but in the morning I figured out that if you just down each 500 ml dose in one go, it wasn’t too bad. I drank an extra litre of water both morning and evening to make up for my under-dose.
The examination, then, wasn’t a huge amount of fun. I could watch the progess of the endoscope on the monitor, see the brown fluid in my gut get gurgled up by the tube, observe the flushes the doctor administered. With my lack of sleep and low blood sugar, I didn’t try too hard to follow it and instead just tried to relax. It was uncomfortable, but not unbearable (unlike the barium enema and bowel X-ray I had once on the NHS), and it was pretty weird to feel the endoscope poking my abdomen from the inside. The nurses moved me about a few times and squeezed my belly, perhaps to improve suction. The doctor took five biopsy samples, but I at least didn’t feel that.
The doctor told me afterwards that my colon was mostly healthy, but that I had – have – a ten-centimetre patch of inflammation in my upper large intestine that bled on touch. I’d already told him that my regular doctor was a specialist at Daehang Hospital in Seoul, so I got a CD with images from my exam and started thinking when I would go up for a consultation.
Later, at work, my boss gave me some fish jjigae to take home for dinner. I duly did, warming it up in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Later in the evening – while I was trying to go sleep, in fact – I started feeling a bit feverish and nauseous. I vomited up aforesaid dinner and worried about whether I’d merely contracted food poisoning or whether I’d suffered some horrific damage to my bowel and was now developing septicaemia.
The following day, I felt better, but was weak, so I took the day off work and went to Seoul to see my doctor there. He looked at the pictures from my examination and declared that I was fine. He didn’t prescribe any steroids for my inflamed bowel, nor anything for my bout of food poisoning. During the day, I was only able to eat half a small bowl of cereal and a few French fries for lunch. My guts weren’t too happy.
I recovered from all this over the next few days, but had occasional twinges in my colon in exactly the place the Cheonan doctor had told me I had the inflammation. These moments of discomfort have dwindled in frequency to more or less nothing, now, but I couldn’t help thinking the colonoscopy was more harm than help. I went back to the hospital last week for my biopsy results and they revealed no nasty surprises.
So, to keep my colitis under control, I think I just need to make sure I don’t fail to take my daily dose of mesalazine – all 3,400 milligrammes of it. At least the whole thing turned out to be a lot cheaper than I was expecting; really cheap, in fact: less than £20.