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Humiliating. Painful. Hilarious.


My first sigmoidoscopy was not only the most uncomfortable experience of my life, but likewise the most humiliating. But fear not, if you approach this invasion of your body with a good sense of humor, you will survive with only slight psychological damage.


First of all, I am 28. In other words, I am far, far younger than the usual suspects for this procedure. But having major gastrointestinal issues, which were ultimately diagnosed as ulcerative colitis, I showed up to the GI department to book my appointment.


"You sure you want to do this?" said the bemused and dismissive nurse.


 "Umm, I obviously don't but my doctor said I need it done."


"Oh" she said, as if my incredibly logical answer had caught her by surprise.


"Well, do you want to have a consultation first?"


"No, I want to get this over with. Why would I need a consultation?"


"Well, many patients are very uncomfortable with this procedure, so they want to discuss with the doctor ahead of time, and then return for another appointment to actually get the procedure done."


Great, the rumors were true-- the freaking test had an optional meet and greet. I declined. "No thanks, I just want to get this over with," I responded to the nurse. She gave me a disapproving look and scheduled me in. I tried to make some small talk about how I was too young for this, to which she deadpanned that a 16 year old had just been here. Somehow, knowing someone else is in a greater pain than me was supposed to make me feel better. Not surprisingly, it did not-- in fact, it made me queasy.


She handed a sheet of instructions to me and one of those ridiculous medical pamphlets. You know the type. In three illustrated pages, they make the procedure seem "challenging but overcomable." There was a ridiculous illustration of a guy lying on his side, facing out, and some activity going on behind him. The look on the guy's face was quite similar to Mona Lisa's smile. I'm quite certain he wasn't as happy as she was. I bet you there's one of these pamphlets for brain surgery with a guy smiling as a cartoon drill opens up his skull. But I digress.


My fun fun fun experiences with the preparation are detailed in entries under "Sigmoidoscopy/Colonoscopy Preparation."


Finally, after "prep" was complete, I showed up at my local HMO exhausted and frazzled-- and immediately stood out like a sore thumb. Surrounded by middle aged people and senior citizens, they looked at me with that half quizzical, half disgusted (HQHD), "I wonder what in the world must be wrong with him?" look. I, in turn, looked to them for some measure of comfort, some reassurance about the procedure I was about to undergo. Of course, I got nothing but HQHD.


After a nervous few minutes of flipping through the inane magazines from ten years ago (gingerly, of course- "I wonder what in the world was wrong with the people who touched this before me!") I was called in by a very large and seemingly angry woman, someone you might expect to be driving a bus, perhaps.


Driver led me into a room that looked clean and dirty at the same time. All around me were machines with lots of tubes and knobs, a big sink talking about NEVER allowing contaminated items (ugh) to come into contact with the "clean" side, and the requisite drawing of the digestive tract sponsored by some drug company. This woman was not talkative; she told me matter of fact to go to the attached bathroom and take my clothes off, replacing them with a gown that-surprise!-opened in the back.


"My shoes too?" I asked. She said, "I wouldn't walk around without shoes in THIS room." Driver followed up with a potentially friendly: "Have you had this done before?" AhHA, maybe I can relate to this woman after all, I thought. WRONG. I said "No, and I'm a bit freaked out." She nodded her head as if she could not have cared less what I just said, and then she shut the door. Be still my beating heart.


The gastroenterologist came in, an older gentleman, accompanied by Driver. Normally I like to chat for a while with a doctor,  you know, establish some rapport prior to spilling my guts-- and that just when I'm there because I have a head cold. This guy was about to violate me like no one before, in fact ENTER my guts, and yet niceties were of no interest to him. Abandoning all hope for a remotely acceptable experience, at this point, I tried to focus on the divine comedy that had clearly become my life.


Doctor ordered me to lie on my side, with my butt facing him in all of its glory.  At this point, I'm thinking that it is going to be hard to feel more vulnerable and/or humiliated again. Doctor brusquely orders Driver to "prepare the scope." Even the equipment terminology was daunting. Doctor sort of grunts at me that I can watch the proceedings on a television monitor in front of me. I respond back that I want no part of that, and that I just want to get the hell out of here as soon as possible. As per custom, it matters not what I say as my comment is entirely ignored. "


OK you're going to feel a lot of discomfort right now, try to relax."


And then I felt a LOT of discomfort. Like a LOT. Discomfort to the point where "try to relax" becomes the most preposterous thing one might request of you. He was shoving, and yes shoving is indeed the appropriate word, the base of the machinery into my rectum. In response, my poor rectum was sounding the CODE RED full body alarm-- "INVASION, INVASION!!!" At that point I made noises I knew not possible from a human. I don't remember them. I just know some might consider them unnatural...


"OK we're in" said Doctor Evil to Driver. Then he told her something to the effect of "Begin inflation."

You see, once they set up base camp, they have to pump your intestines full of air to be able to see what's going on. They don't dwell on this part of the procedure in the literature. Oh they should. As an air compressor (I kid you not) went off in the background, I felt my entire abdomen fill up with air. The only image in my mind was that of my innards expanding like one of those balloons you make balloon animals out of. And I also imagined them popping, a creative escape that the AGONIZING PAIN made almost necessary.


Courtesy aside, I yelled "OWW that REALLY hurts." Expletives may or may not have appeared."Stop inflation" said Dr. E.

Then he started moving these objects inside of me, which I only deduced from his comments to Driver. I felt nothing of this, as I was focusing on the temporary relief of the agony and anxiety of the air pump and balloon animal formerly known as my colon.


"Aha, there it is" he said to himself. Nevermind I had no idea what "it" was. "We're going to take some biopsies and we'll be done" he grunted. I didn't care what he was going to do, I just wanted this misery over with. It had been merely minutes but felt like days and nights-- and not just any nights, but those nights where you can't sleep and seem like they're 50 hours long.


He then began yelling off numbers at Driver, "15mm" and then it seemed they began playing some odd game of pinball, particularly the part where you first launch the ball, but this time with my *** instead of an amusement device. The number represented the depth of the scope, after which he yelled "close!" I then sensed some clearly violent ,but thankfully painless, pulling movement followed by a snap and some retraction.


"We'll go a little higher for the next one" and I sensed what was coming. The return of the air pump! Oh dear agony. I could barely stand it, and I could clearly feel it. Near the point of exhaustion, I yelled at them to stop-- they did. He took another biopsy at that point and said that "we were done."


He pulled the giant base thing out of me which relieved some of the outrageous pressure. I was simply relieved.They told me to go to the bathroom and "expect some bloody gas." Listen, NEVER in your life do you anticipate being told to "expect some bloody gas." But you should, if and when you're getting a flexible sigmoidoscopy.


After unleashing liters of air over the next hour, I felt emotionally and physically drained. It may seem like an exaggeration, but I honestly felt extremely violated by the violent, sudden, unfriendly and painful procedure performed by a couple of cold strangers. It didn't help that my ultimate diagnosis was ulcerative colitis, an experience I describe in another entry (under the ulcerative colitis->diagnosis section).


To be fair, I had a follow-on sigmoidoscopy months later-- after my intestinal issues had subsided. This time they used a pediatric scope in deference to the agony I had experienced, and in combination with a colon that wasn't already extremely tender, things went a lot better.


To close, I most certainly *would* wish this procedure on my worst enemy. It won't kill you, but you will certainly remember it.

Andre2 Andre2 31-35, M 65 Responses Mar 25, 2006

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I...have... absolutely NO idea how to respond to this...

Did you have sex with you brother?

I came here because I Googled 'why did my flexi sig hurt so much'. When the official descriptions say things like "The procedure is not usually painful but it may be a little uncomfortable" it's baffling when, like me, one heartily regrets the decision not to have Midazolam because it hurt like hell. I gave birth to a biig baby at home with no pain relief, I honestly had only mild discomfort with Mirena insertion which is described as very painful by many... As for taking 5 minutes, okay, maybe I have difficult anatomy? I am only 5' 1", could this be part of the problem? After about 20 minutes of gas insertion, abdominal cramps, trying to get the accursed thing around 'loops' I eventually gave in to Entonox and then almost passed out so they had to abandon the procedure. I should add that I was very interested in seeing the inside of my bowel on a screen, that part was great at the start. And I was really relaxed too, not nervous at all, so I had felt confident it would be quite easy. Good luck and sweet Midazolam/Propofol dreams to any future patients.

You are too funny.........great way with words !! You may be the second coming of Dave Barry, who is actually the funniest man on earth------in my humble opinion. I will have my second colonoscopy soon and this time I have opted to try it without sedation..........I will think of you during the procedure (and laugh to myself)

Had one recently. The nurse helping had nil sense of humour - after ascertaining it was the right procedure, I quipped the doctor would not want to accidently put it in at the wrong end and she said in a dead pav voice that the instrument for the stomach is quite different. On the table she had trouble getting the luer in (I think she was not too skilled) and I told her not to bother with sedation. She was totally un-amused and told me the consequences of not being sedated - she looked and sounded very threatening - at that point the doctor intervened and injected the sedative.

Oh Andre2 you have made my day and can honestly say I think you'd give Billy Connolly a run for his money - haven't laughed so much for ages - sorry. And sorry you had such an awful experience and this was mainly down to 'Driver' and 'Doctor E'. My experience today couldn't have been more different regarding the attitudes of those who had care of me - everyone was reallly lovely (just to reassure anyone who's attending the Fitzwilliam in Peterborough) and when its not so late and I've recovered (just feel knackered at mo) will leave my story here too.

I am 26 I had horrible horrible pain with the sigmoid i am a small girl and i never felt more violated, i kept thinking this is a type of anal rape, just to be told my colitis had flared. I had already had it diagnosed years prior. Gee thanks, Doctor now let me shove it up your *** and see how you like it.

I have had 2 colonoscopies in the past 5 years (last one was in November). I undressed, put on that 'robe', had an IV inserted in my arm. I was looking at the screen/monitor noting the manufacturer and wondering about the model (I am in charge of all our minor property where I work...computers, printers, etc, etc). Next thing I knew the nurse was waking me up. The doc had found one polyp this time (5 years ago they found 4 and cut them out) and cut it out. I felt fine except I was ravenous. My wife couldn't go with me but her mother did (they asked me if I wanted her to wait with me. She's already seen a video of me..ahem...in flagrent dilecto...and once in the nude getting ready to close the door to the shower/tub room. I declined her presence). Mom and I went up the street to IHOP where I put down a Colorado Omlet, 3 pancakes and 2 mugs of iced tea. The worst thing about the whole procedure is the day before. I kept a book on the toilet tank.

Hello Andre2
George here, 63 years old, Crohn's disease since I was 30 or so, many many colonoscopies and gastroscopies over the years. If you had that much pain with a flexible scope you need to find a different doctor.

The experience can be quite different with different Dr's, some will sedate you completely and others only slightly but I never had one that used no relaxing drugs of any sort. The latest tendency seems to be using propofol, it knocks you out completely in a matter of seconds and you wake up almost immediately when they quit giving it to you. I think there does have to be an anesthesiologist present though when they use it so some Dr's might not have the resources to do this. Before the propofol became sort of standard though my gastroenterologist always used fentanyl and versed in combination and put me out completely with them. With this combination though you will not wake up as fast and the versed causes temporary amnesia which most Dr's consider good as it blunts your memory of the procedure.

Good luck in the future if you have to have more colonoscopies Andre, they should not be as bad as the one you described above. I don't really mind them at all except for the prep and of course the cost.

George

You do not mention being sedated - this would overcome most of the discomfort and pain. Presumably your HMO does not meet the extra cost of sedation. I think the worst part is preparation - where you have to drink two bottles of revolting liquid twelve hours or so apart. Anyway far rather have that every 5 - 10 years than have horrid surgery with bits cut of the large intestine and a bag to hold your excrement. And to think - this procedure has only been available during the last few decades - prior to that it was a solid tube which could look at the descending part only, and barium enema X-rays for the rest (which is far inferior). That is what I had as a teen for colitis. Dad died of bowel cancer and these two 'indicators' mean I have 'the tube' each 5-10 years.

Oh I am so sorry, I could feel your pain.

I don't understand why in this day and age you were not sedated, apart from the physical comfort aspect it would also have done a lot for you to be unaware of the intimacy of this process. However wait 'til you have a Cystoscopy: this is where you get a camera inserted into your ****. I've had this done twice for kidney stones. The first time I requested that the male dr be the one who prepped me. The 2nd time I was not even forewarned this was going to happen. I thought that I had just a follow up appoinmtment.. This time it was a young -like 19- woman who did the initial set up which is basically putting a clamp on your **** and injecting a numbing gel into the urethra. I am not straight so a young woman who did not have the best "bed side manner"- was not a turn on for me, and trust me straight men your little friend is going to gett even littler with the prospect of what is about to have done to it- it's going to try and hide- the actual process when the doc is moving the camare around-its on the end of a thin tube can be very painful, but it is over and done with relatively quickly. ACE2010

If you need another one come to the UK and pay if you have to! I had one a while ago and it was nothing like you described, although my friend in the USA experienced it in a similar manner to you.
I was given quite a heavy sedative/painkiller mix; something like pento-barbital and pethedine. Although I dreaded the thought of this the staff could not have been more kind and sensitive; the only real downside is that someone had to pick me up afterwards as I felt a bit silly from the drugs!
They found a polyp which was removed and I did not feel a thing. Sorry for your suffering, it must have been awful and it makes me realise how lucky we are to have the NHS in this country.

In my early days with the USN, I was a very young and inexperienced Hospital Corpsman. I was also assigned to the Proctology ward 4C at the Balboa Naval Hospital San Diego, Calif. in 1972. I remember quite fondly, participating in the examination of various male and female patient's anal rectums. We didn't have flexible proctoscopes then. We had a 25cm very hard tube that was inserted into your anal orifice and moved around with air being pumped in manually. I officiated the suction machine and the clean-up after the doctor was done with the patient. Be glad your only 28!

I'm sorry I laughed but you just made it sound so....funny.

I am so very sorry you went through that, but glad to see you took it so humorously. I myself had an endoscopy which I found to be very unpleasant, done by two of the most grumpy medical staff I have ever met in my life. I wish I had your story to read that day...

I don't mean to sound mean but that is a very funny story maybe you should take up writting for a living. I hope never to have to go through something like that..EVER!! Apparently now they give you a sedative and something else so you don't remember it after. I only know this because my brother just had one and that is what the Dr. told him. To bad you wouldn't have had it now when they do that. Although we wouldn't have enjoyed your story as much then. VERY FUNNY!!!

Ouch!
I had this procedure done,forty-one years ago, at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, and with a few minor fillips - mostly crude Navy humor - I had a similar experience.

Two years ago, I had to have it done, but that was done under sedation, and was a fairly painless and forgettable procedure. I had been blessing the improvements in Medical science that made the old style technique a thing of history....
I'm sorry you had to endure the old style procedure.

Gee whiz. I'm so thankful i was sedated for all three of my colonoscopies. The first yielded 7 polyps, the second,9 and my latest,1. Hey, getting better. My doc even vacs out most of the air they have to pump in. Where did u get that done and by whom? Cuz I think I prefer my doctor's method.

Sounds alot like the prostrate biopsy I've experienced two times in my life so far. Except for the gas which sounds very painful. The whole rectum violation is the same. No sedation except for a shot on novacane where they take the plugs of the prostrate. That is no fun either. All in all I'll stick with this little exam, yours sounds a lot worse.

OUCH!

This mirrors my experiences with colonoscopy. I have had Crohn's for 17 years, I am 25 years old now. These procedures can be such frightening and painful ordeals; they are probably some of the lowest points / hardest times during my battle with Crohn's disease.

Although I was not sedated for the first two procedures (I was only seven and 12), I have been sedated each time since. Even so, the prep is very exacting on my body and mind: as someone who doesn't absorb food well anyway, to be completely empty for 24 hours is extremely physically exhausting. Also, the actual procedure seems to take a toll on my colon and leaves me incapacitated for days. This, I am sure, is due to the severe inflammation that was throughout my colon during the previous procedures.

I learned from these procedures just how fragile my body was, and how I would do anything to keep myself healthy and prevent further complications and procedures. I also learned that simply holding on to this desire to be healthy and the conviction that I would take care of myself made me feel better emotionally and maybe even physically. It was like I came out of denial that I was sick, acknowledging that I needed help and needed to focus on healing was the completely necessary first step towards healing. God bless and thanks for the story.

Thanks so much for your story, I now feel so much better for screaming at about 13/14 yrs old having a Sygmoidoscopy, while my concerned Mum was being told that 'It shouldn't hurt as you have no nerves in that area!' I'm 34 now + would not ever have one while awake again. It was being pumped with air that hurt me too, as well as being highly embarrassed, + then terrified as they found a polyp. Then I was in hospital with my stomach pains + rectal bleeding again not long after + they didn't put me on a childrens ward but an adult ward full of people dying with cancer + I knew a polyp could be cancerous. I was around 21 before they finally found out what's wrong with me, endometriosis, which is actually a gynea issue, but you can, + I have got it in my bowel, + pouch of Douglas (a pouch like space in a female between the rectum + vagina + 1 of the most painful places to have endo), as well as numerous other places. As well as food allergies common with endometriosis. I often wondered was mine more painful coz of the endometriosis as my mum to this day believes I've got a low pain threshold because of how much this hurt me. I'm in the UK + despite my age then sedation was never even mentioned - perhaps that's different in different areas?? I've had a lot if stuff done now medically as I'm ill with a fair few things + disable, but to this day I buckle up when any medical person says it shouldn't hurt, or is only uncomfortable, I know that's lies lol!

I had this 2 hours ago. This article was almost identical to my experience. It hurt like hell! Never again.....and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. the air inflation was the killer.

OH F****, 8AM tomorrow aint lookin' good. Sedative? You bet your ***!

hahaha this is perfect!<br />
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Im 19 and have UC too and had my first flex sig a couple months ago.<br />
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You pretty much described the experience to a T.<br />
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I now know that when doctors say something will be "mildly uncomfortable" what they really mean is it will hurt like heck.

i enjoyed your account of this experience - I also just had a flexible sigmoidoscopy, and though i didn't find it at painful as you did, I totally can relate to your account!! to me, it was only a little uncomfy with about five seconds of pain, and I DID watch the screen after that five seconds passed... but just like you, the humiliation is what got me... i mean, it's my booty! lol... anyways, thank you so much for sharing and for putting a smile on my face :)

Found this page while looking for details about flexible sigmoidoscopy, having myself to undergo one. Beforehand I was quite distressed about the perspective. In the end, for me it wasn't remotely that bad - of course we might all have different experiences, but I felt at most a mild discomfort during the whole procedure (inflation). So, even though your mileage may vary, fellow reader do not be overly anxious about this...

They say after 50 this could save lives, but you are right, I wish they could find a non invasive way to do this.

That was just an awesome story! My parents both had this done to them and they never quite could explain it like you have here. <br />
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Good times at the doctor... yeah, right :D Haha! Good read.

Oh dear God ! I have to go to hospital for this procedure in two weeks ! Not only that but at the same time they are going to remove skin tags and leave the wounds open as 'we don't close them any more and it will sting like hell for two weeks'. Why did this have to happen to me ? I haven't done anythign worse than anyone else. Why oh why do I have to have a defective butt???????????