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Routine, my butt!

Friday, November 14, 2014

They call it a “routine” colonoscopy but the only people it’s routine for are gastroenterologists, the medical folk who start their work at the end of your oesophagus and continue until they’ve bottomed out, so to speak. (Gastroenterology is a career that can never end well.) 

A colonoscopy—an examination of the colon using a flexible, fibre-optic tube inserted at a point where, normally, things are only ejected—can be routine for gastroenterologists who do the procedure every clinical day of their lives but, for those of us on the other end of the probe, it’s anything but “routine”; good firetrucking thing you only have to have one every five or ten years.

The “routine” colonoscopy starts firetrucking with your own routine five full days before it’s even scheduled, when you have to stop eating all green leafy vegetables—your Sunday callaloo apparently stays with part of you long after your palate is done with it—as well as a handful of foods I eat by the handful each themselves (like nuts and trail mix), all pulses (like peas, beans, corn and the channa that constitutes the single best part of the doubles) and anything with seeds (you can’t even suck salt prunes.) The remnants of these foodstuffs, it seems, can take up near-permanent residence in your colon, like Jamaican security guards in Trinidad, or incompetent, thieving scoundrels in Cabinet.

One isn’t responsible for one’s own likes or dislikes, one merely has to learn to live with them, like one’s family, but I’d have been better off if I’d had to stop red meat or rum: five days without nuts has nearly driven me nuts; I can happily get through a kilo of pistachios before breakfast.

The day before the colonoscopy, you’re not allowed any solid food whatever: breakfast is coffee and doughnuts, without the doughnuts, and lunch is Jell-O without a flicker of fruit cocktail embedded in it—and you’re not allowed anything quite so heavy after lunch. 

You’d think gastroenterologists couldn’t think up something worse than a 24-to-30-hour liquid diet for their patients/victims, but they can: by the evening of the day before, you move from a liquid diet to a CLEAR liquid diet: even your Coca-cola must transmogrify into a Sprite, your coffee into apple juice, your broth into nought.

Of course it makes sense: your colon is not the best-lit part of your anatomy and, if an otologist needs a powerful torchlight to examine your ear, which has one end open to the daylight, it’s clearly in your own interest not to have dark green spinach, red cranberry juice or kernels of corn that can survive the entire digestive tract intact obscuring your doctor’s vision: it makes sense; but it doesn’t make for  a good pre-procedure mood.

Since no one specifically banned it, I had the heaviest meal I could stomach the night before, hoping to coast on it at least to lunch of my liquids-only day, but it didn’t help: from the moment you wake up to the prospect, it’s a long, long day with no solid food. The crystals you are given to dissolve and drink are a trick: they clad the intestine walls only for the purpose of coming away from them, taking anything clinging there with them—leaving you feeling, and in fact, even emptier than you were before you ingested them.

By midday, having had only coffee for breakfast and ice cubes for a mid-morning snack, I could have passed for an Administrative Officer V of a Caribbean civil service or a customer service representative anywhere in the world: I was ready to bite the head off anyone who spoke to me, just for something to firetrucking eat. Luckily, I take my coffee pure, no milk or sugar adulterations, or the sense of deprivation—and my resultant bad mood—would have been even more acute. 

A liquids-only diet makes you fantasise over a bowl of rice the way you would over the rack of lamb at Mélange: you’d eat your words by mid-afternoon, if you could. And it makes you wonder over the pure heroism of Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, who has been on hunger strike since September 17, against the Debe-Mon Desir route of the south highway. Deprived of solid food for 30 hours, I was keenly and unrelentingly aware of my insides eating away at themselves as steadily and damagingly as the supposed Citizens4DHighway are eating away at our civil society with their genuinely sick advertisements. (Ernie, it really is blood money in this case.)

Wayne Kublalsingh has been without even liquids for 60 days and his solid decency and dignity expose us all for what we are: people capable of seeing authority only in absolute form and playing to it with shameless opportunism. 

Whether or not you agree with his stance or think he is legally right—and one Court of Appeal judge seems to, and five Privy Councillors might yet agree—you have to admire the fortitude and grace involved in such a selfless, possibly self-destructive act, made in the interests of others. And you have to wonder about the morons who seem to think that such a man would secretly be eating just enough to prolong his agony. Beings—you can’t call them “people”—who don’t even have the sense to google “longest hunger strike” clearly will never discern a character so much greater than theirs. But it would be deeply, unbearably sad if Wayne Kublalsingh were to die for such jackasses.

BC Pires is happy to eat humble pie if Wayne K will eat another doubles—as he did to end his last hunger strike, for all the morons still posting that picture and pointing fingers on Facebook


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