For reasons we can skate over, except to say that my doctor thought I might have cancer of something or other, yesterday I surrendered my empty body to the Endoscopy Department at St Thomas’ Hospital.  My body was empty because, as per my instructions, I hadn’t eaten anything for nearly 48 hours and I had downed some disgusting medicine that turned poo into pee. 

The first notice you see upon entering St Thomas’ Hospital asks you, amongst other things, to declare whether you’ve had diarrhoea during the last couple of days.  I decided this didn’t apply to me because my diarrhoea had been officially requested and was, perhaps, even welcome.  The latter was confirmed much later when a charming nurse thanked me for having such a clean bowel – something I have never been thanked for before.  I can’t remember my reply.  A modest, ‘Oh, it was nothing’ would have been neat but hardly true.

Two things always happen to me on hospital visits. First, the name Honey causes nurses to dissolve into giggles.  I tell them that over the years I’ve got used to it – the name and the giggling.  On a previous hospital visit I had to be weighed and the nurse asked me, ‘What was your name?’  I thought it ominous that her request should be couched in the past tense.  I should have replied, ‘Was?  I’m not dead yet!’ but didn’t think of it fast enough so I told her my name and the giggles commenced.   The second thing that always happens is that my veins are admired.  Apparently they are magnificent, easy to find and utterly compliant. 

Preliminaries over and gowned in one of those things open at the back, I was led into an anti-room where I was warned about the dangers of the procedures they were about to inflict on me – terrible things like perforated this and that.  I dismissed it all as scaremongering and signed the consent forms – two of them, one for down and one for up.

The down bit (a gastroscopy) was quick and I didn’t know much about it.  Mouth clamped open, a squirt of something down the back of my throat that tasted like a banana and vodka cocktail, a slightly odd sensation of something wiggling around inside my stomach and that was it.  No exclamations such as, ‘Hey, look at this’ or, ‘Wow, never seen one that size before’; just a silence that was difficult to interpret.

The up bit (a colonoscopy) was less quick and much more interesting because I could watch the camera’s journey on a large screen.  It was remarkably like the Walt Disney animation where poor Pinocchio is swallowed by the whale.  Fascinating to watch the camera glide along pink tunnels and round bends that had been with me for nearly 80 years but that I’d never seen before.   Again, no immediate feedback – except the nurse thanking me for having such a clean bowel.  

Then to a recovery room for a nice sleep followed by a cup of tea and some biscuits.  Finally the verdict; everything normal.  

An anti-climax.  I felt a fraud.        

 

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