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Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Metamucil Wars: Final Chapter

The surgery center was an icebox.

The nurse covered me with blankets warmed in a blanket toaster. I was naked beneath a hospital gown, half-asleep and hungry. I'd fasted the day before and flushed my colon with Suprep, the bowel prep kit that tastes like Nyquil. There wasn't anything inside.

I'm positive.

The anesthetist shot my IV with a margarita. On the streets, it's called dope. In the hospital, it's got a proper name, but the anesthetist called it a margarita. To calm the nerves, he said. I was ready for the colon roto-rooter. My wife sat next to me, reading the paper. I took a short nap.

When it was time, I got fitted with a blue cap and rolled down the hall. The lights were harsh, the room still cold. The assistants introduced themselves and rolled me onto my left side. I faced a giant TV that would soon be televising my lower regions from the inside. The ratings would suck.

The anesthetist's assistant explained what she was doing as she shot various things into my IV. I might've heard her but was distracted by the other assistant baring my ass for penetration. Seems like they'd wait until I was under to do that. Then again, I didn't care.

I talked to the anesthetist assistant while she was doping my veins, said I was a kid the last time I was put under. Back then they used a mask. She said it's easier that way for children and that--


30 minutes of my life cut away, just like that.

No passage of time. No colors, no thoughts.



Like death.

And then, what seemed like seconds later... Wake up, Mr. Bertauski.

I was in the one room, now I was in another. It was magic. A wormhole through time and space that folded onto itself, compressed in a seamless passage from one moment to another. They had done the deed while I was erased from consciousness. Whoever I am was gone, my body left on a table by itself. And I was brought back from dead, transplanted back into my body, tugged back from wherever I went.

Back to the living.

The verdict: everything in Bowel City was ship-shape. They got in and out in less that 20 minutes like thieves. A camera was inserted 4 feet into my body.  I got probed and, had no one told me, never would've known the difference.

Thanks to the magic margarita.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Metamucil Wars, Pt 2

Saw the gastro-doc.

The office was in an area of other health-care providers, like a strip mall for doctors. The lady on the phone said their office was near the big apple sign. I thought that was weird. I don't know why. But there it was, a big red apple parked near the street.

The office was quiet as church. I was in the waiting room with another guy. We didn't make eye-contact. It was more customary than nervousness, but I couldn't help wondering what his deal was. I was there to discuss a colonoscopy. He probably was to. I thought that was weird. I don't know why.

The gastro-doc was a nice guy. Easy to talk to. I went through the symptoms. I had the impression he was not impressed. I suppose he was accustomed to people crapping out a colon, not some 40-something guy complaining about loose bowels.

Blood in stool? No.

Pain? No.

Sounds more like the flu. Scribble, scribble. But we can do a scope, make sure everything's doing what it's suppose to. Handshake. Make an appointment, we'll do this.

I feel better. I also feel my wallet getting lighter. But I should do this, yeah. Just to be sure.

Bowel prepping is fun!

The nurse makes my appointment and goes through the instructions of the BOWEL PREP KIT I'm going to buy from the pharmacy. Those words seemed abnormally large on the box. There was also a lot of emphasis on NO RED DYE. Evidently, every organ in my body will be cleansed. I was instructed to always stay within leaping distance of a toilet.

Because we want your colon to look like this. There's a picture of a glistening pink tunnel that, in her opinion, is a wonderful colon.

Not this. This picture looks like a colon smoked a pack of Marlboro Reds.

We'll see you next week, she says.

Next week. Sounds like a date. One I will sleep through.


Friday, August 10, 2012

The Metamucil Wars, Pt 1

The battle cry sounded like a coffee percolator.

It started at my appendix and trickled sideways for a good five seconds. And then the march of a thousand tiny feet vibrated the walls of my intestines. My stomach was dropping acid like Jimi Hendrix's headband. A couple hits of Milk of Magnesia would put the fire out, get things back to normal. After all, I had places to go, things to eat.

The war was just beginning.

The days passed between foggy drives to work and deep slices of sleep. I was averaging 12+ hours of shuteye a day, getting a wink every time I lay down. No coffee, for days.

No coffee = caffeine withdrawal = F'ING HEADACHE.

I'm a grinder, too. I go to sleep, I smash my teeth like industrial-grade car compactors. I wake with 6" spikes in my skull.

In four days, I eat 2 bananas, a bowl of rice and an egg. The bananas are turds. All food is disgusting.

I self-diagnosis via Internet. Sounds like diverticulosis, or irritable bowel syndrome, or colitis, or gingivitis, or ruptured kidneys, or 1000 other things. I error on the side of general digestive malfunction, something that's triggered by the wrong food and controlled with diet. My wife thinks my pancreas has exploded.

Doctor sees me on day five.

I'm feeling closer to normal. Not eating, yet, but not sleeping like an over-medicated mental patient. Doc says since there's no blood in the evidence and no pain in lower portions when he presses with three fingers, probably not serious. Probably something like irritable bowel syndrome.

In pathology, syndrome means = we're not sure what causes it.

Here's what you do:

  • Take probiotics. Those are the good guys that will fight the battle FOR ME.
  • Increase soluble fiber. That means Metamucil. That means I'm offically 80 years old.
  • Time for the butt scope. We need to see what's in there. Just to be sure.

For now, all is quiet on the western front. Next week, there will be a camera inside me looking at the battleground.

To be continued.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Marshmallows in Potholes

In the late 1960s, Stanford researchers conducted a Marshmallow Experiment with 4-year olds. A marshmallow was placed on a table and a child was told the researcher would be right back and that if he or she could resist eating it, the researcher would bring back another one.

But only if they resisted.

There conclusions: gratification delayers were more successful in adulthood, had higher SAT scores and had fewer problems with addictive behavior.

I'm not sure I would've lasted long enough for the door to close.

Follow up research indicated that low-delayers, as they're called (sounds insulting, kinda: You're such a low-delayer), can change. Follow up research identified differences in brain activity between the two groups. High-delayers were more active in the pre-frontal cortex. Low-delayers, somewhere near the core where instincts take place.

In more recent studies, researchers have concluded the effect of meditation on brain activity and found measurable changes, including structural and dynamic processes. While they do not specifically link results to the marshmallow experiments, they concluded the changes could affect "addiction, mental disorders, and ADHD...".

You know, things a low-delayer can relate to.

We all have experience with low-delayer behavior, that moment when we say, Screw it, I WANT THAT NOW. That out of body experience where we don't feel in control, we eat 17 donuts, have just the one cigarette, the drink, a forbidden kiss, or something else. Fill in the blank.

Every day offers us an opportunity to work with that. To practice with I WANT. To notice the thoughts and experience the bodily sensations that accompany them.

To allow life to unfold. To not get in its way.

And if we practice, truly, it's not change that happens.

It's transformation.