I Survived a Colonoscopy

I can’t believe I’m actually going to write about this, but when I was researching how to prep for a colonoscopy with a spinal cord injury, I found very few articles. So, if my experience can help one person feel a little bit more informed going into this procedure, I want to put my story to use to help you.

I’ve been having “tummy” problems for several years now. My primary care physician has been excellent and she was checking my blood work, she noticed that I was low, or deficient, in quite a few vitamins and minerals, nearly anemic, etc. She also did a stool sample which found blood in my stool. It was the stool sample that had her saying “colonoscopy.” Seriously? As much as I knew she was right, I knew how much work and effort and education would be involved in this process.

The first hurdle was getting the GI doctor’s office to understand that the prep for the colonoscopy needed to take place in the hospital. As a C6-7 quad, there is no way that I would be able to handle the prep at home, even with help. I was most worried about my blood pressure either plummeting, or skyrocketing, due to autonomic dysreflexia. I knew a hospital setting was the best place to be. It took some work, but I finally got orders to be in the hospital for the prep.

First, let me say, that I went in to this experience with the worst possible scenario envisioned in my head: no one listening to me, no one caring about the risk of a UTI or developing skin breakdown as a result. Upon admission, I kind of felt like I was on that path.

I was a direct admission, so after registering, the woman that registered me walked me straight up to the hospital room. I realize this person was probably just trying to make small talk, but she actually said to me, “Well, at least you have your own wheelchair.” Hmmm. I just had absolutely no response for that. Strike number one.

I had made sure that the orders included an air mattress since I knew I was going to spend the entire time in bed. I walked in the room and there was no air mattress. The nurse came into the room, introduced herself and said, “We were waiting for you to arrive before we got the air mattress. We wanted to know your size and your mobility level before we got one.” This was looking a little bit better.

And then she said, “We don’t have any orders for you yet.” After waiting several hours for the orders to arrive, I immediately started drinking the bowel prep solution. That evening I had to drink two liters of the stuff. I brought a water bottle that was easy for me to hold and to chug the liquid from. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to chug. I managed to gag four 16 ounce bottles down within two and a half hours.

While I was waiting for things to “begin,” I decided to doze off. I could feel my blood pressure going up a bit at times just letting me know that my system was doing something. But I wasn’t convinced I had done anything. I called the nurses in at it 2 AM and to my surprise, quite a bit had happened. Since what was coming out was mostly liquid, I wasn’t experiencing the same autonomic responses as I do during a typical bowel program.

Throughout the night and morning, I would regularly call the staff in to check things out. I wanted to prevent skin breakdown and a UTI, if possible. Around 5 AM, I had to drink the next two liters of the liquid. I did not finish the entire four liters, but the nurse had decided that things were “clear” enough and that I didn’t have to drink anymore. Thank you, Lord.

The colonoscopy itself was a breeze. I was sedated and the procedure was over within 30 minutes. Within about an hour, I felt good enough to start getting dressed. I ended up having to have assistance because my blood pressure was so low. After multiple attempts of sitting up in bed, I finally got into my chair.

I expected the worst, but thankfully had a better experience that I anticipated. My skin was rather irritated and I eventually I developed a small wound on my tail bone as a result, but I got it healed up within a week by being very proactive. Thankfully, I did not develop a UTI.

I hope you never have to have a colonoscopy, but if you do, know that if I survived one, you can, too.


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