A week or so ago I went into my local hospital for a day surgery that required a general anaesthetic. I’m certain that a colonoscopy is a rite of passage for every hypochondriac, although I don’t recommend it unless you are truly dedicated to the cause.
The preparations for the procedure are brutal. I don’t want to scare off anyone from having it done – it’s a necessary invasion of your body if you experience any sort of bowel change over the age of fifty – but they made a mammogram feel like a walk in the park.
Put it this way, I acquired the skill to jet-wash the garden patio from my anus.
The fact is, bowel and colon cancer are on the increase, so I decided it was worth a prod up my ass to make sure everything was okay
Needless to say, my family was as supportive as ever. NC nicknamed me “poopie” as a result of the hours I spent expelling every last piece of sweetcorn from my colon, although her suggestion afterwards – that her father and I refrain from anal sex for a while – was less funny.
But this post isn’t about the state of my rectum. It’s about an experience I had in the hospital, just prior to my procedure, as I awaited my fate on the gurney.
Hospital procedure is fairly standard, I imagine: you get admitted, you get dressed into one of those silly gowns that reveal your saggy ass each time you go the bathroom – which is a lot before a colonoscopy – and then you wait for a theatre nurse to come and collect you.
For a hypochondriac and over-thinker, that waiting period can be a moment of reckoning
It is the will I, won’t I die moment we’ve been preparing for our whole lives. And to be honest, I thought I was good with it. I had accepted I was either going to die on the operating table or be diagnosed with some horrible, terminal illness.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the life-flashing-before-me moment just before I went in
I know it’s a cliche, but as I lay there under my heated blanket, desperately trying to ignore my niggling bladder, I couldn’t help thinking about what I’d do differently if I had my time again. You know the kind of stuff: I wouldn’t smoke; I wouldn’t go to uni; I’d be a better advocate for my son; I’d maybe learn a musical instrument and how to whistle. Then, fortunately, some positivity kicked in and I switched my focus to what I’d done right which carried me on an interesting detour to the realization that I wasn’t actually ready to die after all. That I’d miss my little provincial life, no matter how fucked up it seems at times.
More importantly, I didn’t want to die like this, alone, in a stark white room, with my bum hanging out
My care was first rate that day. I was treated with as much dignity as you can expect when a handsome young consultant is about to inspect your ass. But, albeit a minor procedure, it was still a scary moment. There are few good reasons to find yourself in theatre at my age, and as such, the experience felt rather like a transition, like COVID-19 does. It was a disruption that I neither expected nor wanted, that provided me with an unsavoury reminder of my mortality.
That hour in, particular, gave me a better understanding of why many elderly people choose to die at home.
Lying on a hospital bed surrounded by strangers and beeping monitors is scary, and certainly not the way I would choose to leave this earth
Many of us, young and old, are facing that terrifying situation right now. Not my privileged peace of mind day surgery, but a very real fight for their lives. Each day around the globe, people are catching this virus through chance, bad luck, inequity … call it what you will …and succumbing to it alone, without family and friends around them.
In terms of infection, we’ve been relatively lucky here in Australia. However, the second wave in Melbourne has shown us that it is not only the elderly who are affected. Many frontline workers have caught it this time as well, and many of them are young, with families, taking risks every day to do their job. To protect us.
All they’re asking for in return is that we show some social responsibility
No one truly seems to know how much masks ward off this horrible virus, nevertheless, it is a preventative measure that could save lives. I take statins as a preventative measure because of a condition in my family that increases my risk of a heart attack, and not once have I questioned if I should have to.
And I shouldn’t have to say it, but social responsibility also means not going on a pub crawl or to a large house party.
We’re not being asked to sacrifice our lives in battle for our country. We’re being asked to help prevent the loss of more lives.
Innocent lives. Old lives. Young lives. White lives. Black lives. And for the record, middle-aged lives.
Which is something we can do.
Because no one deserves to die alone.