Every time I have a doctor’s appointment, which luckily, knock wood, is not that often, it is rare that I get lengthy instructions before the visits. Granted every once in a while, if I am having a blood draw done, they will say whether to fast or not and when I get my bone density tests, I am told not to wear something with metal like a zipper, but usually it’s just a real come as you are party for me.
Recently my sweet friend in Nevada had to go for the dreaded barium enema. That in itself is extremely unpleasant, especially at our age, but the instructions that they faxed to her not only were totally bizarre, they were two pages long. This procedure is very serious and I do not take it lightly at all but it is in my nature to try and find the humorous side of everything. So, when she told me about the detailed directives, they sent to her I asked her to forward them to me. COVID has increased my level of boredom apparently and as she started to read them to me, her voice became louder and peppered with extreme laughter. I think it helped her deal with the impending invasion!
They titled them “Preparation Instructions” and began with a list to start two days prior to the procedure. On day one, she was told to purchase a 10-ounce bottle of Magnesium Citrate, five Dulcolax tablets and one suppository at her local pharmacy. I am a little unclear as to how you purchase those specific amounts but I read on. It went on to say that is was important for her to follow these directions exactly, (why would you not?) to avoid having to repeat it. Really? Okay, moving on, no pun intended, the letter then advised her to stay close to a bathroom. Makes sense. Without getting too graphic, I would think that nobody who swallows enough of this type of medication would go for a three-mile hike or long drive to the seashore but that’s just me.
Along with the mass quantities of diuretics, which were to all be consumed on day two, it said to drink at least one eight-ounce glass of water 13 times in that same day on top of the clear broth, coffee or tea or non-pulp juice for her meals. I could only imagine her sounding like a surge of 14-foot ocean waves when she walked through her house. Then she said, she could have some gelatin to which I responded, oh goodie, sounds delicious!
The last part of the instructions mandated that she not only drink the entire bottle of Magnesium Citrate, she could not chew the four tablets but had to take them with yet another glass of water. Finally, there must be no drinking or eating anything after midnight before the procedure but I can guarantee I would certainly have absolutely no desire at that point for any liquids. The morning of the procedure, day three and the big crescendo, there was no food or water just that one lonely suppository for the road! The instructions for that shall remain unreported.
So how did it all go for my friend? If this more than slightly annoying procedure did not go well, they would do a full colonoscopy which she wanted to avoid at all costs. Luckily it was successful and she got the all clear. She and I were able to sigh a sigh of relief and then chuckle profusely at the list she shared with me.
The real take away on this through my brevity is that it is important to keep up with health exams through this pandemic. Your doctor is there for you and takes every precaution to keep you safe. Tests like these can save your life and by letting you know, in great detail how to prepare, you can feel comfortable in staying safe and well. If you have a blood work up or any maintenance examination, check with your primary care physician to see if they can be postponed, SAFELY. Use the video appointments whenever you can. Let your doctor know if you have any changes in your system and be diligent and an advocate for your own health. We will all get through this with some common sense, courtesy towards others and following the basic guidance of the scientists. Stay safe and well and keep your sense of humor.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.